Friday, December 29, 2006

Best of 2006

As a relative fragrance newbie, I am anxious about creating a "Best of 2006" list; I've spent most of the past year trying to catch up with the previous century or so of modern perfumery. Most of the scents I enjoyed this year are not new, but new to me. My impression was that the mainstream releases were particularly boring this year, and so, while I wouldn't wear most of them regularly, I'd like to single out for praise the few who swam against the tide in this category: Donna Karan Gold, Guerlain Insolence and Prada Man for women, Burberry London for Men, Terre d'Hermes and Polo Double Black for the hommes. In the already rather crowded comfort scent category (not my favourite), I thought Kenzo Amour, Jo Malone Blue Agava & Cacao and, well, okay, yes L de Lolita Lempicka were well done. The situation in the niches was considerably better: Andy Tauer's Lonestar Memories, L'Artisan Fou d'Absinthe, Le Labo Rose 31 and Serge Lutens Mandarine-Mandarin were the releases I tried that I enjoyed the most. As for scented product market, my favourite was Tom Ford's Azurée The Body Oil Spray for Estée Lauder. In the category of scents that seemed to take a long time to get to Western Canada, the winners are Kenzo Flower Oriental and Dior Homme's Eau Noire. This weekend I will be doing a list of my all-time favourites, many of which I discovered this year.

Tuesday, December 26, 2006

I heart Santa

Well, Merry Christmas and happy Boxing Day to all! Hope everyone had a very fragrant holiday. I certainly did; no full bottles this year, but a sample of J.A.R. Bolt of Lightning for a stocking stuffer and.... *swoon* a 16-day trip to European perfumery hot spots! Itinerary: stopping over for two days in London (Ormonde Jayne!), flying into Nice for Carnival and the "Flower Battle" parade with day trips to Grasse (Grasse!) and Èze, by train for four or five days in Paris and area (Serge! Guerlain! the Osmothèque in Versailles! etc., etc. etc.) and then back, probably for the central coast, Merseille and Aix-en-Provence (M.F.K. Fisher's fave, land of Cézanne). We are renting a car, and may try Avignon and Châteauneuf-du-Pape instead of the central coast - my husband is an oenophile and history buff - or, then again, we may head east to Menton and Italy. Santa has the plane tickets and his spring bonus, but is leaving much of the planning up to me. We are taking the baby, which seems to shock all our relatives, but delights me. It is the most generous and exciting gift I have ever received. I am looking forward to advice from my worldly perfume-obsessed buddies on what to sniff out...

Thursday, December 14, 2006

Please accept my apologies

A combination of hectic holiday preparations and severe head cold has kept me from posting these last days. I have a wonderful assortment of samples to review when my nasal passages permit. I was going to do a twelve days of Christmas run-through of my favourites, but perhaps I'll just do a list as one post to celebrate the New Year. Thanks for your patience...

Wednesday, December 06, 2006

Vivienne Westwood Boudoir

The discussion of a number of ladylike or pretty perfumes on the fragrance blogs lately got me thinking: do I like any perfumes that express my feminine side? (For that matter, do I even have a feminine side?) I try to focus, but only get the Beastie Boys' "Hey ladies" running through my head, which is wildy inappropriate and very typical. I try again. Well, I like Farnesiana in extrait, which the Caron website describes as "maternal". I love Annick Goutal's Passion, the only scent from a line of delicate water-colours that actually works on me. Frederic Malle's Parfum de Thérèse and Mauboussin's Histoire D'eau Topaz are favourites of mine, but I almost prefer their radiant elegance sprayed on to a tissue or fabric. As for the Chanels I like, No. 22 is proper in a youthful sort of way, but I think of Bois Des Iles as a more quietly daring, amused fragrance, perfect for the older or darker girlfriend of a young man with conservative parents. I like some of the Diors, particularly Diorella, but favour vintage Dioressence, just from the description of it.

You may be able to guess from the preceeding comments why I generally dislike pretty fragrances. Ladylike perfumes, almost by definition, do not buck convention - they lack the cheeky edge I normally enjoy in a scent, that sense of something being just a little bit intentionally and humorously "off". Have you ever swept past someone and heard them mutter into your sillage, in a suspicious and undecided tone, that something "smells funny"? The only way to wear a scent that causes that kind of reaction is with confidence, bosom prominently displayed and one eyebrow cocked. Boudoir is the sort of scent bosoms were invented for. Released in 1998, the notes may include: viburnum, bergamot, marigold, orange blossom, hyacinth, orris, rose, jasmine, narcissus, tobacco flower, cinnamon, coriander, cardamom, nutmeg, amber, vanilla, civet, sandalwood and patchouli. Oh yes, and a partridge in a pear tree.

It is a big, bilgy fragrance with all the old-fashioned sauciness that is suggested by its name. Jan Moran apparently labels it a "Green" oriental, a category probably corresponding to Michael Edward's "fresh" tone in this case. It is very hard to describe the effect of whatever is floating over top of the fragrance's legendary creaminess, but "fresh" does come closest: there is a certain breath-spray or toothpaste quality to it. This effect is the "offness" I like, and is likely the overtone that turns off all those reviewers who complain about Boudoir on Make-up Alley. I think it is quite possible that hyacinth could be the contributing factor here, but it is just as possible it is not. I'm fairly certain that the cardamom is in there because there is a moment where it smells very much like an Indian dessert, and as Jeffrey Steingarten has suggested, Indian desserts taste like your grandmother's dressing table: orange and rose water, sweet spices, lemony zip, vanilla, oil, wax, powder, milky lotion and cold cream. Boudoir is a cosmetics buffet. The whole thing is actually preposterous and that is what I like about it. It smells very "closed" and the different threads (spicy, creamy, sweet, fresh, animal, buttery, bright, etc.) competing could easily be smothering if over-applied. There is something wonderfully nostalgic about the unashamed seduction of Boudoir; certainly, I think it earns its man-killer status. It is one of the few perfumes my husband can remember the name of, and therefore one of the few perfumes I can forgive for being feminine.