Tuesday, June 30, 2009

Ormonde Jayne Ormonde Woman: fragrance review

"The Chevalier stops, dazzled, at the door: the mirrors covering all the walls multiply their reflections in such a way that suddenly an endless procession of couples are embracing all around them". ~Slowness, Milan Kundera

If you asked me how I knew that the initially named "Ormonde" would be one of my favourites in the Ormonde Jayne line, then I'd tell you that having sampled the lot of them, its languid decay and bittersweet melancholy stood out in my mind for weeks to come and all of a sudden I realised I had to have it! Its dichotomy startled me: Was it dicepherable as that rare genus of a dry woody originally aimed at women (yet men are welcome to borrow) or was it a Sibyllic opaque alloy of contradictions? Ormonde Woman exemplifies admirably what Chandler Burr described: "Ormonde Jayne has created a collection that possesses the quality I most value in perfume: a wonderful and mesmerising strangeness". Pretty, beloved notes take on a grotesque façade that makes them appear convulted in the most arresting way, like figures seen in profile at the mirrors chamber of some far away fun fair through the convulted lens of David Lynch.

A peppery green whisper of Ormonde Woman on a summer day makes me appreciate its haunting, eerie beauty even more, reeling me from the dreary conventionality of mainstream releases into a subtly wicked fairytale. Though woody fragrances are typically pigeonholed in the cooler season, I like to bring out the most understated among them for reveling in their sophisticated embrace even on the sunniest of days. Brooding claustrophobia where no sunlight can penetrate seems to engulf you when woody fragrances unfold in the snow and sleat, and yet wait and luminosity cuts through the enchanted cobwebs, making them sparkle like jewels when cast under the bright morning sun.

The rooty, piney and spicy opening of wet earth and sinister anthropomorphic grasses mingles with a sweet, almost licorice-like violet delicacy in Ormonde Woman's heart, uplifting the composition into a sophisticated enigma; one which cannot be dissected into sexual temptation and loss of innocence, yet one feels they're all there, under the trampled leaves like a not-so-innocent adult Red Riding Hood who strayed off the path to become a she-wolf. The poison cup offered comes in the dangerous guise of black hemlock absolute, a rare essence that the founder Linda Pilkington utilises in rarely foreseen quantities to concoct just the right hypnotic spell. A tireless traveller, Linda has fostered relationships with growers all over the world from Laos and the Philippines to Morocco and France, gaining her remarkable access to the most unusual exotic oils. The drydown of Ormonde Woman bears facets of a dry, non-sweet amber that peters out inivisibly. Fabric Magazine said it well: "Her signature scent Ormonde Woman made from black hemlock is a real femme fatale, all black feathers, felt capes and illicit affairs"

Notes for Ormonde Jayne Ormonde Woman: cardamom, coriander, grass oil, black hemlock, violet, jasmine absolute, vetiver, cedar wood, amber, and sandalwood.

Ormonde Woman can be purchased directly from the official Ormonde Jayne website or at their London boutique.

For our readers an amazing offer: Mail sales@ormondejayne.com with "Perfume Shrine Ormonde Woman" in the title to receive 200 complimentary deluxe samples of Ormonde Woman! The 201st person will get an Ormonde Woman Bathing Beauty Gift Box!!

Clarification after a question to OJ: The new packaging in the square rather than oblong bottle has been raised in price due to costs involved: the costs of essence oils have risen, the caps are in glass instead of plastic and the whole presentation has become even more luxurious!
Related reading on Perfume Shrine: Ormonde Jayne news, interviews and reviews

Painting Anansi & death by Johanna Uhrman via jonnakonna.com
Mirror picture via guardian.co.uk

Monday, June 29, 2009

Fille en Aiguilles & Fourreau Noir: First Images & Associations of the upcoming Lutens fragrances

The new fragrances of Serge Lutens, which we had announced on this article a while ago, will soon debut (Fille en Aiguilles comes out on July 1st!) and the speculation on what they entail is high: The Lutensian cosmos always produces something of an enigma, a riddle that necessitates multiple solutions like a geometry problem that can be approached in different ways, still all of them resulting in the concentrated essence of a new look to our world.

For Fourreau Noir Lutens takes a sartotial point of departure to narrate a tale of mystery.
"Two white hands emerge against the light, moving so slowly that they redefine the shadows, making them look darker. The contours of the body, illuminated by a gleam of light seeping through an open door, offer contrast. She moves forward, trampling the stairs beneath her feet, her smile broadens. With all the virtue of vice, this tight black dress had such a fluid shape that I could revel in its language..." Serge's fascination with the juxtaposition between black and white is infamous. Serge Noire was also alluding to it with its smoky trail and controversial press-release and the Japonesque fascination with the painted white skin is something which haunts the creative imagination of Lutens for long.

The limited edition bell jar (a special presentation of the Paris exclusive regular bell jars for collectors) is positively kittenish; perhaps the most playful flacon to ever come out of Les Salons du Palais Royal with its cat sketch seen from the back, gazing at the stars suspended in the lightly rosey-purplish juice.
The mysterious juice takes another incensy trail, the one left over by the more ecclesiastical and spicier Serge Noire, which took the hardened path to cloth, the one of utilitarian dress, while Forreau Noir denotes more luxury with its silky body-conscious aura. The lavender is diminuated, in order to let hay/tonka bean and incense do their thing, so we should expect a more feminine and less traditional composition than the typical masculine fougère.

For Fille en Aiguilles, Serge is playing with us: "Under a sunshade, the reckless cicada begins to sing. What a silly thing. A truly fatal hymn! Tick tick tick tick tick tick tick tick tick tick tick tick.
Telling us what makes Paris tick..."
I do notice however that the French text utilises the phrase Une fille à aiguilles en quelque sorte (a girl on needles of some kind) which could imply either simply stiletto points, or her disquetitude of being "on needles". Of course the pine resin which is the obvious association of the pine resin in the notes is not to be missed. While at the same time the press release ends with "Le dernier cri de Paris", which translates as "the latest vogue". Is it because it picks up a trend that hasn't been noticed up till now or does it hope to introduce a trend in itself? Deciphering the riddle posed is never conclusive. After the conventionally pretty Nuit de Cellophane, shall we expect a flamboyant firerwork like the sublime El Attarine? I fervently hope for the latter result, at any rate!

You can read notes and preliminary assumptions based on them on this article.
For the time being, the only full reviews online are those by Elisabeth de Feydeau in French on this link.
We will return soon with our own, starting with Fille en Aiguilles!

Click on pics to enlarge!

Related reading on Perfume Shrine: Serge Lutens scents & news, Upcoming releases

How to deodorise the cat litter box & get decants for summer

"Recent record-breaking rains are dampening more than just New Yorkers' moods and shoes -- those of us who live with cats are experiencing litter overload.[...]Poof, a mint-scented oil spray designed to make a human's bathroom atmosphere more pleasant, has the same effect on a litter box (poofdrops.com). Poof also makes a Magical Deodorizing Spray for use on dogs, but it's a dogsend for kitty's box, too (available at PetSmart stores)".
This and other tips on how to combat the litter box aroma of your domestic feline are suggested in this article on the New York Post.

Online decanters on the other hand get a nod for their contribution on this article on
The Atlanta Journal Constitution by Nedra Rhone:

"With more than 500 new fragrance launches a year, it’s hard to know which of the magical potions is well-composed and which ones you should leave behind. Six years ago, Atlanta fragrance lover Diane Weissman began decanting perfumes into small vials or bottles that she would sell on eBay to customers who wanted to sample fragrances. “I love scents, but not in the way most people wear perfumes,” said Weissman, of East Cobb. “They have to spray it all over themselves… . I don’t want anyone to know what I’m wearing unless they are very close to me. It is my little mood lift.” Two years ago, Weissman and three other decanters joined forces to launch ThePerfumedCourt.com (a reference to Louis XV)".
Might as well mention one of them, Patty Geissler, is involved in the Perfume Posse blog, a fun read!

Sunday, June 28, 2009

Optical Scentsibilities:In a Suspender State of Mind (the new Chanel Coco Mademoiselle ad)

The new advertising images for the best-seller and much copied Coco Mademoiselle by Chanel saw the light of day on Fashionising.com. The site offers that it is "a gorgeous Keira a sheer white blouse, Chanel pearls, and braces" (what other nations call suspenders ~personally I associate braces with teeth!). Backseatcuddler.com is also enthusiastic, calling it "very retro Coco Chanel look". Indeed the black and white juxtaposition signals Chanel even before you can lisp Coco.

Personally I find that the previous bowler-hat-hiding-invisible-breasts and leaving elongated limps to view was not as naughty as it wanted to be, although the commercial was positively divine. In comparison the newest is looking like it goes for a little more coverage, yet still with the subtle tittilation that Coco Mademoiselle stands for in the Chanel portfolio (and which must have accounted for a large portion of the younger clientele following). The look is mature and erotic to the degree that the audience can take it. The need for a masculine touch, as androgyne is so tempting visually, is presented through rose-tinted glasses: The sheer blouse covers just so (you can still see outlines) and the flowing effect contrasts well with the stricter line of the suspenders, which appear like whips on flesh we only visualise and never see. But it's also a fashion nod to the gangster of the 20s, the era in which Chanel solidified the look that would make her the stuff of legend and the long pearls necklace depicted is also a nod to the jewellery she helped immortalise. Suspenders also remind us of garters, their erotic significance never far in the mind of the viewer: the promise of something that will loosen, that will unbotton...
What is odd is that despite its timelessness (I've worn the look myself), this look was very 2006: it even trickled down to Miss Selfridges and American Apparel!
Keira has already been photographed for Interview magazine with this look, perhaps to more outright sexy vibes, while Victoria Beckham also presented her own boyish but conservative version in Christian Dior (or rather the stylist's vision) on an Elle cover recently.

None of them however can surpass the sheer power that is emitted through that cougar that is Charlotte Rampling and her ambiguous character in The Night Porter. Keira is pretty and has that angular look that helped Rampling cut the silver screen like a scimitar, but her own raw erotic power is not of the same calibre.
My personal gripe however with the new print advertisement for Coco Mademoiselle is with hair and makeup: The shade of Keira's nicely coiffed a la 40s noir heroines hair looks like it has been two-toned horizontally (as if she is growing out her natural shade), which puts a much darker frame around the face; perhaps an intended choice, given the unusually shaded makeup which sculpts her already sculpted cheekbones and gives supposedly mysterious depth to her eye sockets. The finger on the mouth apart from acting as a further sucking innuendo also elongates the line of the cheekbone to the point that it becomes almost Garboesque. A heavy load on Keira's tiny shoulders....

Related reading on Perfume Shrine: Optical Scentsibilities, Chanel news and reviews, Chanel Les Exclusifs.

Ad brought to my attention by AlbertCAN (thanks!). Pics: foreveramber.typepad.com, fashioning.com, fashionfrappe.blogspot.com, fashioncopious.typepad.com

Thursday, June 25, 2009

Optical Scentsibilities: Faces, faces, what's in a face?

Perfumery is 70% image, 20% sex and only 10% composition, a fact scientifically proven at the Research Institute of Elena's Holy Shrine on mount Hymettus. I am pulling your leg of course, trying to inject a funny note in what is something that has always impressed me as signigicant in actually having the desire to actually sample a fragrance that is fronted by it. I had admired the Clinique approach of highlighting only the product in the ad for quite a long time (right till Happy that is). Certain faces have the potential to deter us, rather than entice...

Case in point, for me, the English actress Sienna Miller for the launch of Boss Orange, a new feminine fragrance for the German collossus which is launching this July.

Sienna is cute and possibly a nice person if you get to know her (not that I stay awake with that thought, mind you) but she has gained more popularity for having gained popularity via the tabloids than anything she has acted in! Then again I haven't been impressed with a Boss fragrance yet, so this is small potatoes in my personal universe. Might I also add that the bottle looks really, heinously ugly??

On another multi-European juncture, the Italian designer Alberta Ferretti has enlisted the help of benign giantess Claudia Schiffer for the launch of her first eponymous perfume (seriously a dent in the fragrance cosmos?) and it will be her face that will adorn the ads and launch a thousand ships....eh, bottles.

Frankly, Claudia (like Heidi Klum) has never done anything for me and in more intimate moments I call her The German Frankfurter for her spiciness and sheer zinginess on the palate! But perhaps a lot of other people might disagree with me and I have to admit she photographs well, most of the time. I really miss her kittenish Guess by George Marciano photographs that launched her career all those years ago though...

Pics via elleuk, zimbio and djanecouture.wordpress.com

Scent Systems fragrances & Oeillet: fragrance review

Your perfume wafts me thither like a wind;
I see a harbour thronged with masts and sails.
Still weary from the tumult of the gales,
and with the sailor’s song that drifts to me
are mingled odours of the tamarind,
and all my soul is scent and melody. ~Charles Baudelaire
Scent Systems is a company founded by Hiram Green specialising in all-natural fragrances, which were developped by professor George Dodd. Dr.Dodd has worked as a consultant for various international companies whilst at the same time pursuing an academic career at the University of Warwick (1971-1994). He can claim fathership of the electronic nose technology, since he established the UK’s only Smell Research Group at the University of Warwick in 1971, specializing in 'firsts' to create the worlds earliest electronic noses. He also founded the Olfaction Research Group (the only smell research group in the UK) and organized the world's first conference on the Psychology of Perfumery before moving to the Highlands in 1994. There, he established Aroma Perfumes and Aromasciences in a croft at Loch Awe in Wester Ross. In 2005, Dr.Dodd developed the Scent Systems bespoke perfume service and recently developed Scent Systems first ready-to-wear perfume collection.

The floral collection includes Jasmine, Tuberose, Rose, Oeillet (carnation), Wild Violet & Tuberose.

The Scent System fragrances are quite unusual and need to be approached with some apprehension: These are not intended to be a realistic approximation of the blossom baptism they got, but rather an interpretation of the idea of the flower in a manner which I haven't been accustomed to even in natural perfumes which have been featured on these pages. It's as if they're dawning from the pages of an old botany compedium with gothic images of stamen and chalice.
All-natural perfumes usually present an approach which necessitates time on the part of the wearer, contrary to commercial perfumery which utilises attractive top notes to grab you instantly. They usually begin on a very intense, thick and pungent aroma upon first sniff, then unfolding their complexity in billows of sensations that often remain on the blotter for days and weeks on end creating desire and longing. Indeed natural perfumes often gain complexity with time, because the natural maturation process continues in their flacon, advancing like a good millesime of Chauternes. "Once you taste a fine vintage wine, you fall love with its sheer richness of sensory experience, and you notice a lack when you indulge in a cheaper version; even though you have previously enjoyed this cheaper version. The same applies to fine perfume", as George Dodd confided to Sniffapalooza Magazine. Still, these fragrances at hand present their own little challenge and they are built on a clash of opposites which like passionate people argue and make up continuously, their prominent characteristic being texture.

For me, the most interesting in the lot was Oeillet. Carnation is a flower sadly underappreciated, often associated with funerals (alongside lilies) or used as a filler in a bouquet of more flamboyant beauties to cut down on costs. Yet its peppery, spicy aroma is having more carnal and earthy intentions than the afterworld to which we assign them. In ancient Rome carnations were referred to as Jove's flower, Jove being the God of Love, while I still recall the fiery flamenco dancers in Andalusia tucking one behind their ear as they clapped their hands to a frenzy to accompany their passionate dancing. I even recall how as a small child I was transfixed by the intensely, intoxicatingly fragrant white carnations we had potted in my bedroom's balcony and how often instead of the sword-like leaves I thought I was cutting for my night-stand, I came face to face with same-hued locusts in my palm! The pale shade of the blossoms, intensely so under the hot glaring sun, seemed at odds with the scent of the multi-petalled flowers that appeared prematurely wrinkled to my eyes, like a woman who has weathered life to become who she is. When some grain of another variety landed in my jardinière and "contaminated" the white carnations coming forth with a tinge of red at the outer ridge of the petal, somehow things seemed to take their proper meaning and fall into place puzzle-like upon finish of the last remaining bit. This was how carnation should look, a red-hot ribbon on the edge of cooler white volants! Little did I know that in the language of flowers it stands for unrequited love...

I have since long scoured classic perfumes for their almost arousing, erotic effect they provide thanks to their inclusion of a carnation note. The classic treatment of carnation in French perfumery is best exemplified by Caron, in which the allied forces of eugenol and isoeugenol molecules create the dazzling clove-y note which appears in Poivre extrait and in its Eau de Cologne Poivrée equivalent Coup de Fouet. The passionate aspects are also evident in Bellodgia, a multi-nuanced rich floral of epic proportions. Another direction is the smaller facet in Nina Ricci's classic and tender L'Air de Temps, given flight thanks to an overdose of salicylates. But while in those fragrances the peppery note of carnation is coming up like a jolt to tingle the nose naughtily, here in Oeillet by Scent Systems it unfolds under a camphoraceous and acidly green joli-laide impression that reminds me of the comparable treatment that Serge Lutens and Christopher Sheldrake saved for tuberose in the agonisingly beautiful Tubereuse Criminelle. The mysterious effect is according to the perfumer due to a natural-occuring aldehyde which harmonises with the textural facets of the carnation note.
The quest for a natural carnation absolute is difficult since only a few manufacturers worlwide provide it and in some cases the crop essence is contaminated with tiny traces of some acetyl-pyrazine molecules which result in a nutty off aroma. In Oeillet George Dodd told me they source a special absolute from India, which as I attested through personal sampling, indeed unfolds differently than most carnation scents. Garlanded around it is a very spicy absolute from Basmati (another Indian and oriental scent note), the absolute oil from the ylang-ylang flower (quite different from the ordinary essential oil) and the absolute oil of rose centifoflia. The ‘heat’ aspect of oeillet is given by a blend of unusual spice oils including cardamom. The interstructural play of hot and cold is at the core of the fragrance and accounts for much of the charm of the atypical composition. The coda of the perfume is supported by an invisible warmth that melts on skin becoming cozy and soft like a soft pashmina put on chilly shoulders during an evening out in Kerala to harvest the humid night-air and its cornucopia of aromata.

Scent Systems are having a summer sale right now: "All full size bottles of our ready-to-wear floral perfume collection are reduced 20% percent for a limited time. We have also decided to extend this sale to include a reduction of 20% on our bespoke perfume gift vouchers and bespoke perfume refills. Our bespoke perfume gift vouchers have no expiry date; therefore, they can be purchased during the sale and redeemed any time in the future. Sale offer applies to online purchases from the Scent Systems website only. Sale ends June 30 2009 or until supplies last.". Click this link to claim your discount.

And a draw for our readers: Leave a comment for a full sample pack of the floral collection by Scent Systems!

The winner of the draw...

....for a deluxe Ubar sample is Lian! Please mail me with your particulars using the contact email in profile, so I can get this out in the mail for you soon.

Thank you all for your participation and stay tuned for the next one!

Wednesday, June 24, 2009

Who Wants to Gag the Blogosphere?

Today's post comes with a bitter aftertaste. It was with surprise and alarm that I was informed by Octavian Coifan, the blogger of 1000 fragrances, that his blog was reported to Blogger regarding his recent posts about the relationships and possible "borrowing" between the new Guerlain Idylle and Coty's previous work from 1922 of the same name.
Apparently the legal team at LVMH decided that the postings were too accusatory and decided to bring out the big guns, reporting said postings and demanding they're taken down; otherwise Octavian's account would get deleted by Blogger.
Octavian has posted about the incident and about his decision on his blog, but I wanted to bring some questions to you, hopefully igniting another stimulating discussion:

1.The function of reporting a blog on Blogger exists for the following reasons: pornographic content without prior warning (non applicable in this case), copyright infringement (non applicable in this case) and libel/defamation. It's the last bit that was considered applicable according to LVMH but non applicable according to my humble opinion and here's why. The Merriam Webster definition of libel states: "A written or oral defamatory statement or representation that conveys an unjustly unfavorable impression. A statement or representation published without just cause and tending to expose another to public contempt." Nota bene the "unjustly unfavorable" and "without just cause". But the thing is Octavian posted info and photos of the comparison! Besides Idylle by Coty is mentioned in Art & Fragrance Rapport Annuel 2007 as well as in Perfume Intelligence Encyclopedia. Therefore it's nothing new, it's in the public domain for long and he was the one connecting the dots. Does it transpire an adage of the "let sleeping dogs lie" nature? Is this a case of "all is well if no one points it out for others to see"??

2.Other people in the French blogosphere, such as Jeanne from auparfum.com and Mechant Loup of Olfactorum, had posted the preview of the new Idylle bottle and presentation before the original release (Grain de Musc reports the original source was Les Échos owned by LVMH! Stratégies, a business monthly) and were asked by mail to take them down, which they obligingly did {edit to correct: Mechant Loup just informed me that he had the picture taken down through no action of his own, apparently through direct intervention of Blogger itself!}. Octavian was more drastically met. Why is that? Did he go too far in his pointing out the shorcomings of recent LVMH offerings and general practices? It can be argued that he has also greatly contributed to the grandeur of the perception of Guerlain from the perfume-loving community with both his appraisals of older scents as well as newer ones. And the gravitas of the praise is exactly in place due to the existence of criticism where it's due!
Besides, how far is "too far"? And most importantly WHO decides on that last bit? As a Greek by birth, the place where democracy was originally conceived and founded, this is deeply scathing to my very ethos, to my very core. In times where E-democracy is manifesting itself, when the Internet and the blogosphere are viewed as a platform and delivery medium for tools that help to eliminate some of the distance constraints in direct democracy, this is deeply against the times and denotes lack of grasping of current sensibilities. Which brings me to my next question.

3.Who in their right minds thought that such an action was a sensible move in PR terms? The likeable madame Sylvaine Delacourte, artistic director of Guerlain, has been receiving lots of flack for the recent creations of the house (and I admit although I personally liked some, I didn't like all of them) but she was unaware of the Blogger intimidation and to her credit she has confirmed so publicly on Octavian's blog! Why is there such a lack of communication and handling within the firm? This makes a highly placed person feel like a puppet and all the rest of us like viewers of a train-wreck and I am sure she does not appreciate it, nor do we. This also shatters the wonderful prospects we have tried to establish between the blogosphere and the historic house, starting a dialogue in which for once we could be heard!
After all, brands do read us and since Guerlain recently copyrighted the name Loin du Tout just after our review (I am eagerly expecting Lancôme to follow with Kypre), then it means that we blogggers can provide some sort of direction even inadevertedly. Is it worth losing that?

4.What is most alarming is not that big firms have gone after bloggers. No, this has happened again with Pere de Pierre and some objection regarding the authoriship of Lutens fragrances; this has happened to The Non Blonde when she posted about receiving some intimidation from PR companies regarding a lipstick; and there is also the infamous incident of independent perfumer Liz Zorn and her scent name "Peace" objected to by Bond No.9 and their own copyrighted "Scent of Peace". What is most alarming is that it was Blogger involved, a Google platform that has happily catered to the lion's share of blogging writers who wanted to self-publish due to its ease, good infrastructure and free publishing status. Accepting grosso modo a complaint without some logical delay in fair evaluation of the reported blogger and his specific posts equates accepting the word of the behemoth (or anyone really) against the little guy. And this means that there is a shortcoming of democracy once again...I find that last part most devious, most obscure and ~aside any overdramatisation~ truly alarming!

Let me terminate in a very American parable: As Benjamin Franklin was exiting after writing the U.S. constitution, a woman asked him "Sir, what have you given us?"; he responded "A republic ma'am, if you can keep it".

If we can keep it...

Tuesday, June 23, 2009

Eau Flirt: Can a Perfume make you appear more attractive?

"Another Harvey Prince perfume, to be released this fall in Canada, claims to be able to make women more attractive to men. Called Eau Flirt, its formula is based on widely published studies conducted by neurologist Alan Hirsch at Chicago's Smell and Taste Treatment and Research Foundation. He measured penile blood flow in men in response to particular smells, and found the most effective combined the scents of lavender and pumpkin pie.
The press material for Eau Flirt describes its scent as a blend including "sweet and fruity top notes, floral and spicy middle notes, woods and musk bottom notes, combined with vanilla and pumpkin essences"--sort of the perfume version of pumpkin pie and lavender.
A third scent to launch in 2010 is called NYC 10021, the New York postal code of the rich and successful, a la Beverly Hills 90210. Ramani calls it "the sweet smell of success."
You can read the rest of the interesting article by Marta Gold on Canada.com here.

Might I remind you that Harvey Prince & Co. is the company which brought us Ageless Fantasy, the fragrance which purpotedly makes you be perceived as roughly 7 years younger; and wondoursly enough has people on the payroll checking blogs whenever it's mentioned and reply as "casual" commenters to its defense...(It's been done).

But the real question is: Is perfume merely an aspirational thing that like the proper shade of blond or the right size implants should make us conform to a "predigested" ideal of how we should be perceived? (Young, attractive, successful, whatever...). If it is truly a work of art, shouldn't it hold only aesthetic values and not be dumped down to pragmatic goals?
This is a major discussion and I am inviting you to share your views in the comments.

Crazy Libellule and the Poppies Les Garconnes: new fragrances

Crazylibellule and The Poppies, the company that brought out those cute solid perfumes in carton cases like lipstick is launching a new set of solid perfumes this July, also encased in similar packaging. The new line is an homage to fabulous ladies of the Roaring 20s, thus nicknamed Les Garçonnes (after the novel La Garçonne which ignited the "flapper" vogue). Although I would not venture to call them "proper perfume", they do present a fun and cute way of carrying around a scented little something in your bag without the risk of spilling or staining and their Encens Mystic was even worthy of being featured in my Incense Series, so it's got some pulling potential to be sure! And at $16.00 for 5gr they're very inexpensive.
"The freedom of the 1920's is the inspiration behind the universe of the brand’s new collection "Les Garçonnes". A modern ode to femininity and audacity and a few grammes of sensuality, these seven creations pay homage to the independent, seductive and positive women who changed their era: Joséphine, Gabrielle, Louise, Tamara, Jeanne, Rose and Pompon. Famous or beautiful strangers? Can you guess who they are?" (via press release)

The new Les Garconnes line from Crazy Libellule and the Poppies will include:

*Chère Louise ~ notes of hyacinth, rose, pepper, iris, saffron, patchouli and gaiac wood.

*Hommage à Gabrielle ~ notes of jasmine, peony, ozonic flower, cedar, incense, leather, vanilla and elemi.

*Pompon Gardenia ~ notes of lime, watermelon, lily of the valley, gardenia, amber, tobacco and heliotrope.

*Rose à Saïgon ~ notes of mango, rose, jasmine, gaiac wood, ylang ylang, passion fruit, vetiver and patchouli.

*Jeanne Voyage ~ notes of bergamot, mandarin, iris, musk, violet leaves, nutmeg, heliotrope, amber and rose.

*Joséphine Jonquille ~ notes of lemon, ginger, cardamom, tiare, jonquil, jasmine, patchouli and chocolate.

*Tamara Charleston ~ notes of peach, mandarin, fresh cut hay, absinthe, jasmine, lisylang (molecule by Robertet), gardenia and amber.

Check out the brand on the official Crazy Libelllule and the Poppies site. Available at Beautyhabit and B-glowing in the US.

Sunday, June 21, 2009

Estee Lauder Private Collection Jasmine White Moss: fragrance review

Private Collection Jasmine White Moss will be the "closing chapter" of the Private Collection series which includes Tuberose Gardenia and Amber Ylang Ylang, a collection above and beyond the run-of-the-mill fragrances of the mainstream sector while at the same time remaining unintimidating and utterly modern in feel. The series managed to inject an upscale touch to the Lauder giant with its limited distribution and its ornamental bejeweled flacons & solids compacts, yet it is the essences hidden inside that prove it's still possible to produce quality jus in those days of rationing and dumping down of the market at large.

While Tuberose Gardenia went for a remarkably alive white floral with gardenia unfurling its waxy petals in front of your very eyes and Amber Ylang Ylang enhanced the familiar amber's unguent with soft lappings of powdery sexiness, Jasmine White Moss goes for the kill and proposes a nouveau chypre. Much maligned as a term that last bit might be however, the resurgence of the august family of chypre fragrances is a market fact: The mossy earthy bases (focused on vetiver & patchouli, often along with synthetic Evernyl, cedar and treemoss) in several fragrances launched in the last few years prove its durability as a genre, even in altered states. Estée Lauder herself seemed deeply enchanted with the abstract harmonies of the typical chypre formula, supervising several in her lifetime: Azurée (1969), Alliage ~also spelled Aliage for the US market~ (1972), Private Collection (1973) and Knowing (1988).

Now comes Jasmine White Moss: Inspired by the spirit of Estée (née Josephine Esther Mentzer) and categorized as a floral, green chypre, being the closest of the trio in terms of fragrance family ties to the original Private Collection. Aerin Lauder, supervisor of the new scent and depicted in a white jersey vintage Halston dress with a white flower in her hair in the print ads says:
“…there is a lot of Estée in this project. We chose the blue stone accents [of white jade, dark and light lapis, sodalite, black agate, mother-of-pearl and blue lace agate] because blue was her favorite color; a basket weave design on the cap, since that was one of her favorite textures; her signature is on the lower right side of the bottle, and of course the juice began as her project.”
According to official press: "Private Collection Jasmine White Moss began as Formula #546AQ— conceived by Estée alongside the International Flavors and Fragrances (IFF) team in June 1989. Never completed in her lifetime, it remained untouched in the IFF archives for decades, until Aerin decided to revisit the juice a year and a half ago". (source)

First of all it is refreshing to see that in an age when divulging has become synonymous with the ad serviendum demand of the buying public the Lauder team admits that all those Estée Lauder scents, which have made fortunes and have catapulted the American perfumery tradition like no other, have been harboured by labourers of the prestigious IFF company and not by Estée herself as was the myth for years (Despite that, it is undoubted that she had a discerning and tasteful veto on the creations herself; after all she ranks among the 20 most influential business geniuses of the 20th century). Indeed American perfumer Josephine Catapano, working with Ernest Shiftan, is the true creator of the mythical and trend-setting oriental Youth Dew (her other well-known creations include Fidji for Laroche and Norell's Norell, later sold to Revlon); she also paved the way for Belarussian by birth Sophia Grojsman who in turn composed several Lauder fragrances to great aplomb (White Linen, Beautiful, Spellbound)!

While Tuberose Gardenia was composed by Firmenich's Harry Fremont, the baton is taken again by IFF for Jasmine White Moss injecting the fragrance with a new material of which they are having the exclusive rights: "white moss mist". The ingredient is quite elegant and provides much of the success of the soft and refreshingly mossy composition. Let me mention in passing that White Moss is also the name of a 1997 Acca Kappa fragrance (Muschio Bianco, although muschio means musk in reality) as well as a L'erbolario fragrance by the same name. The "white moss" ingredient has been fearured in I am King by Sean John (another IFF fragrance) while IFF perfumers have also added it to Estée Lauder’s new Michael Kors limited-edition scent ~Island Capri (source). It is intriguing to contemplate that in this frame there is a hybrid of the Rosa Damascena family called Quatre Saisons Blanc Mousseux, which is known in English as 'Perpetual White Moss' or 'Rosier de Thionville'. Its inclusion seems plausible, especially given the background that reminds me of Chanel No.19 with its powdery rosy greenness, delicate petals amidst the emerald plush, and IFF's headspace technology.

Azurée and the original Private Collection provide the consanguinity. Yet while I had included the original Azurée (NB this is NOT the recent beachy Azurée Soleil) to my Big Bruisers article, as part of my Leather Series, and while Private Collection can be said to be another handsome powerhouse of strident proportions, Jasmine White Moss proves easier to wear than both even with a distinct late 60s-early 70s vibe. However her dainty foot is firmly placed in the modern Jimmy Choo peep-toe of a fiercely smart secretary rather than the classic Roger Vivier pump of the coiffed boss. The opening is nicely old-fashioned, perfumey, comprised of a non-indolic jasmine which oscilates between freshness and tonic dryness. Concerns about regulations to the use of jasmine or moss shouldn't concern: the wizardry at IFF suggests everything is possible with judicious use of small amounts of naturals alongside man-made essences. Its aura of mossy depth appears at once luxurious and reserved. Jasmine White Moss is soft without appearing meek, elegant without pretence and would be the perfect introduction to even wilder, bitter arpeggios for those willing to take the plunge. The gratification from the latter course would be even greater!

Notes for Private Collection Jasmine White Moss by Estée Lauder:
Top: mandarin, black currant bud absolute, galbanum and bergamot
Heart: jasmin sambac absolute (Aerin’s choice), jasmin India absolute (Estée’s choice), violet, orange flower absolute, orris and ylang-ylang
Bottom: patchouli heart absolute, vetiver and white moss mist (the latter is an ingredient exclusive to Lauder.)

Lauder's Private Collection White Moss is available as 30 and 75ml of Eau de Parfum, as 30ml extrait de parfum and as a solid in pendant. It will be featured in 260 U.S. specialty doors in July, including Saks Fifth Avenue, Neiman Marcus, Bloomingdale’s, Nordstrom and Bergdorf Goodman. Internationally, the scent will launch at Harrod’s in August. Testers have already appeared at Saks Fifth Avenue and Nordstorms for those willing to test it.

Related reading on Perfume Shrine: Jasmine Series, Chypres Series, Lauder reviews & news.

Photography by Guy Bourdin via Life Lounge

Friday, June 19, 2009

Top 10 Memorable Masculine Fragrances

With Father's Day around the corner, I was contemplating about those formative scents that marked my budding route to the position I am now: The fragrances my parents wore were a constant olfactory homeland, shaping my tastes and creating the desire to at once emulate and differentiate myself from. So today in collaboration with my guest writer Mike Perez and on a joint project with Gaia of The Non Blonde we're listing the top 10 masculine colognes (classic, modern, niche or mainstream) that we feel can fondle the imagination and create a halo of cherished, unforgetable memories to those that come in contact with their wake. And hopefully make the person wearing them seem a little closer even in absentia...

The female perspective: Elena's top 10 list

Aramis for Men by Aramis
Suave name that belies its intentions opening on a crisp note of artemisia and bergamot with intense woodiness, thanks to sandalwood. Composed by Bernand Chant and the male version of Cabochard, Aramis made it OK to leave a bombastic luxurious sillage announcing itself in Wagnerian ouvertures that demanded their own Brunhilde following yet still smells distinguished after all the Polo and the Drakkar Noir.

Bel Ami by Hermès
The most refined and smooth leather scent imaginable, this "beautiful friend" was recently reformulated with more lemony top notes.

Déclaration By Cartier
Modernised version of both Eau d'Hermès and classic Eau Sauvage, Déclaration successfully juxtaposes fresh tonalities with more risqué animal magnetism in an idiosyncratic mix. A slightly cocky chap in pressed chinos enjoys his aromatized inky tea taken in long, sensuous sips while checking the attractive passersby’s. [review link]

Derby by Guerlain
Leather notes rest atop moss and minty herbs, with a thick, spicy clove introduction. Later a floral phase of carnation and jasmine peek through a smooth richness that goes into the forest floor of a traditional men’s fougère. The leather note of a battered jacket has withstood the elements in a battle at some far away place.

Dior Homme by Christian Dior
An iris fragrance for men sounded like an oxymoron a few years back but the grace of Dior Homme shattered preconceptions about what is feminine and what is masculine leaving the choice to us.

Habit Rouge by Guerlain
My father used to wear this one and his tender nature has stayed with me. Named after the red riding jacket of men for going hunting on horses in the english countryside this is both class and comfort in a bottle. It opens with citrus, then meanders along a slightly spicy path to some cinnamon paired with patchouli, finally leaving a subtly leathery, vanillic caress.

Muscs Kublaï Khan by Serge Lutens
Do you hide a man from the souk in your heart? All khol-ed eyes and heavy languorous lips that tell a thousand tales of musk? I'd love to smell this on a man...

Pontevecchio Colonia Maxima by Nobile 1942
A hint of frankincense lends a cool and mysterious tonality to what is essentially a neoclassical masculine composition that recalls silver-screen heroes and their infinite grace. [review link]

Sycomore by Chanel
From the delicately smoky, citrusy trail emphasizing its aristocratic dryness and the subtly cooling, clean muguet notes that complement the Haitian vetiver variety, to the earthy, almost chocolate & licorice-like lasting impression, Sycomore is an object of beauty that speaks without words. [review link]

Vie de Château by Patricia de Nicolaï
So often men searching for an Eau Fraîche fall into the trap of buying a bestseller off Sephora like Cool Water, Aqua di Gio or Kenzo Homme. Go one (OK, three) better and create memories with this unusual choice: posing as an Eau de Cologne (with its grapefruit and herbs), but it's so much more!

The male perspective: Mike Perez's List

1.British Sterling by Dana (My Dad wore this when I was a kid and somehow the scent is inextricably tied to him and the scented handkerchiefs he always kept in his pocket. I’m sure it’s been reformulated, the last time I sneaked a sniff at the pharmacy it smelled weak, pungently metallic and empty. Back then it reeked of warmth, woods and a small whiff of tobacco – the smell of my Dad)

2. Grey Flannel by Geoffrey Beene (The signature violet leaf fougere – you either love it or you don’t. Affordable classy exuberance. My late grandfather wore this and while I don’t own a bottle of this, just a whiff of GF on someone else makes me melancholic and wistful)

3. Rive Gauche Pour Homme by Yves St. Laurent (When I was growing up, my dad shaved with Barbasol brand shaving foam. RGPH incorporates that retro, barbershop component and adds an extremely compliment gathering, anise prominent, fougère glimmer. One of those scents that I can wear to the gym or the office and it always works)

4. Vetiver by Guerlain (Is any Top 10 list of masculine scents complete, without Guerlain’s Vetiver? I personally wear the harder-to-find vintage Eau de Cologne formula [rectangular non-frosted/striped smooth glass bottle, gold color juice, green label edged in gold]. The salty, crisp vetiver has a more toned down and integrated tobacco note than the ‘new’ EdT. You can splash on liberally – perfect for all climates and occasions. The only fragrance that I own two bottles of)

5. Fumidus by Profumum (Almost an exercise on vetiver: single malt scotch-like top notes, woods, extremely harsh and smoky. An over-the-top masculine that commands attention - yet it dries down to a plush soft and tender peat-wood, creosote aroma. The only drawback is the luxury pricing ($240/100ml) – making it, then, the perfect Father’s Day gift to receive!)

6. Habit Rouge by Guerlain (There are seven different versions: Eau de Cologne, Eau de Toilette, Light [Legere], Eau de Parfum, After Shave, Parfum [Extrait] and the newly released Sport. My favorite is definitely the vintage Eau de Cologne. The animalic-dusty-lemon-vanilla pastry aura is only matched by the equally brilliant feminine counterpart, Shalimar. Essential)

7. Nostalgia by Santa Maria Novella (A list of scents for fathers must include a leather scent, no? Well this one smells like the car engine [under the hood specifically], the leather interior, the leather wrapped steering wheel – winding up with a silky and elegant vanilla finish.)

8. Devin by Aramis (A dash of green galbanum atop a healthy dose of castoreum give this a virile, lived-in-favorite-pair-of-jeans feel. I prefer this masculine chypre over the more formal ones like Derby by Guerlain and Bel Ami by Hermès, and Devin is more affordable & easier to source too.

9. Yatagan by Caron (Resinous, woody, dry, strong, dirty and distinctive enough to smell like nothing you currently own. Enough said: just get a bottle. When you do try to source a vintage bottle from the 1970’s or 80’s: the black capped vintage bottles – the pungent, celery seed top notes are less strident in the vintage bottles)

10. Mouchoir de Monsieur by Guerlain (A quiet, animalic lavender scent that I have recently fallen in love with. This one just reeks of quality ingredients and masterful blending. A subtle scent that speaks in hushed tones, but with a commanding respect. I, myself, am not a father, but if I had children I would want them to remember me with a fragrance that smells like Mouchoir de Monsieur)

Please check The Non Blonde for more memorable masculines!

Related reading on PerfumeShrine: Top 25 of current fragrances we can still enjoy

Pic of Alain Delon in Rocco e i suoi Fratelli via teegardennash.com and with Claudia Cardinale in El Gatopardo via calidoscopio.net. Burt Lancaster pic via armyfamilyok.files.wordpress

Thursday, June 18, 2009

The way to a slimmer you is through the nose....

"Like almost every dieter in America, Wendy Bassett has used all sorts of weight-loss products. Nothing worked, she said, until she tried Sensa: granules she scatters on almost everything she eats, and which are supposed to make dieters less hungry by enhancing the smell and taste of food" [...]"But can the manipulation of smell really lead to weight loss? A handful of niche products would have you believe just that."

A most interesting read in the New York Times today. Click here to read the rest of the article by Abby Ellin.

Brought to my attention by a reader on Perfume Posse.

Hilde Soliani Acquiilsssssima, Doolciiisssimo, Freschiiissimo, Saaaliiisssiimo: fragrance review exclusive

When we had introduced Hilde Soliani and her niche line of perfumes to the English-speaking world, little did we know she would become something of a cult figure, especially after the introduction of her second line of perfumes inspired by her theatrical performances in Parma. Our past choice of a suave, hedonically smoking Humphrey Bogart for illustrating Bell'Antonio proved such a hit, that a respected online decanter chose the pic to feature the scent and even Hilde herself run away with it on her official presentations! But it's not surprising to us that someone as classic and unique as Boggie should front one of her scents: Hilde's fragrances have something unusual about them even within tired genres such as the fruity floral, the gourmand or the tobacco masculine: they brought a touch of Inglese Italionato e un diavolo incarnato ~the sensibilities of an Italian brand yet garlanded with an international spin that makes them instantly recognisable across the boards, caressing memories of childhood and impressing with its panache: The effect of a Maseratti smirking secure in its beauty at a group of gasping Fiats. Someone is doing a pretty good job in that Parma laboratory!

Hilde Soliani's upcoming fragrance line, exclusively previewed/reviewed on Perfume Shrine today, is called Profumo e Gusto in Libertà and is inspired by her love of haute cuisine, which is as Italian as Marcello Mastroianni or Monica Vitti are. Indeed nary does one need to sit at a small local trattoria in the greater Lombardia area to appreciate that for Italians food is perfume for the mouth! The four new Hilde Soliani fragrances inspired by this cultural tradition are: Acquiilssssima, Doolciiisssimo, Saaliiisssiimo, Freschiiissimo ~everything is onomastically attenuated to an hyperbole because they denote the pleasure one derives from refined flavours (although if I am anything to go by, I predict one hell of a confusion when trying to spell for someone or online, but let's not be grumpy); one after the other they are meant to interpret the watery, the sweet, the salty and the fresh/tangy. Let's take them one by one!

*I found myself transfixed by the succulent and rich tobacco ambience that Doolciiisssimo exudes. Hilde divulged that the idea began by la crema catalana with tobacco leaves which she had first eaten in Milan ~too scrumptious for words, apparently and by Jove if you have even the tiniest affinity for the hedonic bouquet of a good cigar with its gingerbread and honeyed tones, then don't walk, run to secure a sample or a bottle of the Doolciiisssimo. Though I normally look at sweet fragrances with a certain disdain due to overexposure to cavity-inducing potions that float around giving me a diabetic coma by association, this perfume is nowehere near what one would call "sweeeeeetest" (which is what its Italian name means). In fact a striking dissonance between name and composition is what makes it mouthwatering and one of the best gourmands I smelled recently: The cut-hay and almonds feel of tonka beans is made richer by vanilla (Madagascar absolute) while retaining a little tobacco and cherry-pie tonality due to currants/ribes. If you have liked Bell'Antonio and Vecchi Rosetti [reviews linked] you are probably going to like Doolciiisssimo too; and if you found the former a bit much in the woody department, then you're also nicely set.

*Acquiilsssssima has a personal story in the background: Claudio Sadler, the famous chef, create a dish for Hilde's birthday which she cunningly took as a point of departure for a "beach air" scent: If you have ever eaten at a small taverna on a Greek island (click for pic) under the shady pines with gaily vibrant geraniums and lush jasmines potted all around and the salty remnants of a sea-dip still on your tanned, tired arms then you would know how Acquiilssssima feels! The salty tang comes from seaweed and its marriage to jasmine is akin to taking a boat to the isles. But what is most interesting is that I detect a little oakmoss in the background, that chypre tonality which blends so well in our hot climate and which provides the murky backdrop to a composition that is otherwise full of watery and light notes.

*Freschiiissimo on the other hand is unusually refreshing, eshewing the customary watery notes for a cool blast of "short" spices such as ginger allied with lime, which gives an effarvescent quality to the fragrance, like champagne bubbles bursting on the surface of one's taste buds in a sorbet quenchingly devoured after some vigorous samba on the dance-floor.

*Last but not least, Saaliiiissssiimo is taking a dare with an uncustomary composition which oscillates between the salty and refreshing undercurrent of vetiver grass and the golden bitterness of saffron as well as the caramelised bittersweet note of licorice (in itself reminiscent of anise). The feel of that fragrance is lightly salty and woody with a starchy feel, full of comforting saffrony risotto stuffed with peas and homemade broth. There is also dill listed, but I confess that I could not detect it prominently.

The new Hilde Soliani fragrances come in Eau de Parfum concentration in 100ml diaphanous glass bottles and will be featured shortly in New London Pharmacy and Luckyscent (where the rest of her fragrances are already carried, check them out).

On Sunday 21 June starting at 5pm at Desenzano del Garda (bs) the Profumeria Parolari will hold a special event with Hilde Soliani: Come and enjoy 7 different flavours of ice-cream inspired by the scents of the older and the new perfume collection called Profumo e Gusto in Libertà (Perfume and Taste Liberated!). The flavours are: Acquiilssssima, Doolciiisssimo, Saaliiisssiimo, Freschiiissimo, Sipario (pina-colada-like), Stecca (inspired by tomato vines) and Fragola salata. At 6pm Hilde will give an interview and there will be singing. Sounds like an evening fit for all of us Italionatos!

Related reading on Perfume Shrine: Hilde Soliani reviews: 1) Il Mio Daisy/Ti Amo Line (Tulipano, Iris, Margerita, Anemone, Ortensia), 2) Teatro Olfactiva line (Bell'Antonio, Vecchi Rosetti, Stecca, Mangiamo dopo Teatro, Sipario).

In the interests of disclosure, I was sent a sample of each scent from the manufacturer.
Pic of Marcello Mastroianni and Monica Vitti via hyper-ware.com. Crema catalan via rusticpalate.com

Is the Smell of Charred Meat the Secret to Seduction?

"A new fragrance (Flame) with a hint of flame-grilled meat has been launched by Burger King. Jonny Birkin asked Derby's women what they made of it. NEVER before have I been forced to fend off hordes of women whose primal instincts were sent haywire by my "scent of seduction. And despite dousing myself in a new scent released by flame-grilled Whopper-makers Burger King, I may have to wait a while longer."
Real-life testimonies from Derby, UK, women smelling Flame by Burger King range from the witty "If it came free with a Burger King meal then I guess it wouldn't be too bad, but I would never let my boyfriend pay for something like that" to the surprisingly accepting "It's quite spicy and musky. The more I smelt it, the more I thought it was sort of sexy."
Read the rest of the entertaining article "Derby shoppers give Burger King's meat-scented aftershave a mixed review" on the Derbyshire.co.uk

Clip originally uploaded by thirtysecondwonder on Youtube

Wednesday, June 17, 2009

Massive Diptyque sale

New Yorkers have it good on what concerns Diptyque fragrances tomorrow and the day next. Deep discounts applicable on "dirty & discontinued" (only!) scents which will be sold at impressive price points (ranging from 40% to even 90% off retail price!). (You can see which scents are discontinued here). Please note NO phone orders will be applicable.

Where: 11 East 26th Street, Suite 600
Between Madison and 5th Avenues

When: Thursday, June 18th and Friday, June 19th
Thursday 9:30 am - 6:00 pm
Friday 9:30 am - 4:00 pm

info via blogdrof goodman and mua. PIc via Orpah magazine

Revealed: Secret Allergy Triggers

"Fragrances can contain hundreds of chemicals that are mostly untested on humans, Dr. Wedner says. When those chemicals bond with the essential oils in perfumes and are then sprayed into the air, sensitive people may take offense. Sneezing, congestion, and headaches can be the result.

What to do: Kindly ask your colleagues to go easy on their favorite fragrances, and bring a portable fan to keep your area as scent-free as possible. Stick with body creams and moisturizers that have light scents. These are less likely to irritate you."
Part of a large and sometimes indeed revealing CNN article (read the suite clicking the link) about allergens in common offenders, such as carpeting, wall paint, soaps and detergents, stuffed animals, candles, beer and alcohol, lemon and limes and even Christmas trees! At least they consulted with Christopher Randolph, MD, an allergy expert at the Yale University. In the grand scheme of things you would agree that perfume is the least of our concerns in relation to those issues...and please note the "spaying" part!

pic via allergyrelief101.blogspot.com

Tuesday, June 16, 2009

Time for another draw...and a request!

I have been rushed today so I might throw the ball to you. First let me announce a drawing for a luxe sample of Amouage Ubar, which we reviewed yesterday on this link.

Out of sheer coincidence (and generosity I might add!) some more ended on my lap just this morning, so one lucky reader might benefit from the good Moerae... Please state your interest in the comments!

Also, the artistic director of Guerlain has graciously accepted our invitation for a one-to-one interview which I will be conducting shortly, so I am inviting you all to post/send me the questions you always wanted to ask to the head-person at Guerlain. It's not often that we get the opportunity to get a message across the top echelons and now is the time, so don't miss your chance!

Please be short and to the point (do so anonymously if you prefer, just be civil) and I will pick the best ones!

Monday, June 15, 2009

Amouage Ubar: fragrance review

The exotic-sounding name of Ubar by parfums Amouage comes from a lost Omani city founded in 3000BC and still functioning during the first century AD, which consolidated a reputation as a tremendously wealthy trading post of frankincense en route the Silk Road. Nicknamed "Atlantis of the Sands" by T.E.Lawrence, its mysterious past lay hidden beneath the sand dunes as a result of divine wrath against the amorality and greediness of its inhabitants (according to the Qur'an). Although archaeological study had been going steady following surface archeology methods, it was only in 1992 that satellite imaging fully revealed Ubar to the world.

Commemorating that event and marking their Silver Jubilee, the Omani-residing brand of Amouage first issued a fragrance named Ubar in 1995, yet like the lost city the fragrance disappeared soon afterwards as if engulged by the sands. Luckily for us, Amouage re-issued the Ubar fragrance in 2009 under their new Creative Director, Christopher Chong; some formula tweaking didn't change the resulting composition too much, but enough to render it more baroque and extremely lasting.

Comparing a vintage sample I had languishing in my collection with a new batch which a generous friend recently provided , I can sense that the original 1995 Ubar consisted of a distinctive woody orientalised composition without much citrus up-top, while the re-issued Ubar is a floriental, with a dominating floral heart and a soft oriental aura on its lush lemon top and its silky woody bottom. Luca Turin gave it maximum points in his Perfumes the Guide quarterly update, mentioning how the older version had also received high marks of respect from connoisseurs, and I can see how it would.

What is most interesting about the re-issue is that Amouage Ubar is a regular shape-shifter on its ~very long~ course on my skin! Ubar's beginning mingles the discernible and very lush bergamot and lemon brightness with some "cleaner" notes (listed as lily of the valley, more of which here) cutting through the voluptuous richness; yet already a velvety aura radiates warmth forth ~the magical radiance of civet, conferring a restraint upon whatever tangy nuances might have been feared. You never had such a lush lemon before! Give it some time however and it becomes a throbbing, pulsating, thorny dark rose, the way the classic Montana Parfum de Peau behaves, while jasmine later embraces the composition fully. At this stage Ubar is a statement-making evening diva, not your average office-friendly perfume and indeed to treat it thus would amount to terrible waste. Atter a brief phase that seems to take a more masculine direction, the longer it stays on skin the more it reminds me of the peculiar lemon-cupcakes accord which was the pinacle of charm and naughtiness in Guerlain's Shalimar Light, with a very discreet suede-like accent in the base (perhaps due to a little labdanum): for something so naughtily laced with animalic civet, Ubar retains an always opulent yet elegantly sexy vibe (same as Ormonde Jayne's Tolu does), never veering into vulgarities: it wears hand-sewn dark lace, not red vinyl, as befits something evoking the romance and splendour of the Arabian Nights.

Although Ubar is appealing to me in no uncertain terms, I find that it is hard to surpass my infatuation with Jubilation 25, despite its many merits. It is worth noticing that men however, especially men attuned to rose and sandalwood mixes, might find it less outrightly feminine than the former and thus find it a better match to their sensibilities.

Amouage Ubar notes: Bergamot, lemon, lily of the valley, rosa Damascena, jasmine, civet, vanilla.

The original Ubar from 1995 came in Eau de Toilette concentration in a twisted pyramidal-shaped bottle (pic here) and cost "around $60 for a half ounce", according to the NST reportage. The re-issued Amouage Ubar comes in Eau de Parfum concentration and costs $250 for 50ml and $285 for 100ml at Amouage.com and Luckyscent.

Related reading on Perfume Shrine: Amouage scents, Parfums Fourrure/Animalic scents.

Pic of Oscar de la Renta fashions shot at Palmyra, via Corbis.

Sunday, June 14, 2009

Sylvaine Delacourte on the Open

"I used to be a dedicated make up artist but knew I wanted to do something different. I decided to take up a job at Guerlain. After a while, I realised I knew nothing about fragrances and underwent training in fragrances. This changed my life. I trained for two years in the only school in Europe: Isipca. Soon I joined the marketing team of Guerlain. From make up, marketing and plenty of other profiles I have now become the nose of Guerlien.[sic]"

Sylvaine Delacourte, the artistic director of parfums Guerlain, is opening her cards on the table in an exclusive phone-interview on occasion of the introduction of the Guerlain brand to India (Why did it take them so long? Ah, but judging by Dior's Escale a Pondichéry, India seems a hot spot market-wise now!) Among interesting opinions such as flowers being a universally liked scent and her faithfulness to one signature fragrance (that one, not revealed in the article, is L'Heure Bleue), Sylvaine Delacourte also reveals that she made Cuir Beluga taking herself as the starting point and main aim. She credits Thierry Wasser as the new nose in the house and gives a few practical rules for perfume wearing.

Read the rest of the article on the Hindu Mail here.

Edit to add (15 June): Mme Delacourte had the graciousness to personally address Perfume Shrine (in English no less) and clarify the following points for our readers and I quote:

"for Jicky , it is a fougere , but in the base notes you can find the harmony of shalimar!for my title , in the past I was director of the creation , it means i was in charge of finding a new idea , and the perfumer who will be able to tranform the idea into a perfume,(it means also evaluation) each time I have mentionned the names of the creators, Maurice Roucel, Olivier Polge and many others...NOW, Thierry wasser is our internal nose, CREATOR, successor of Mr Jean Paul Guerlain, and I am helping him , in the development of some fragrances. I am also the ambassador of the brand!"

Our thanks for those most interesting comments and since the venue is officially read by Guerlain headquarters, I invite you, my readers to pose/mail me with your personal questions on matters pertaining to Guerlain so that we could perhaps establish a constructive dialogue!

Related reading on Perfume Shrine: the Guerlain series, Guerlain news

pic credit from previous article on mailonsunday.com

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