Tuesday, February 27, 2007

Letters from the Front

Not only is this going to be short, it's going to be typed on an international-style keyboard, so it's going to be riddled with mistakes. Did my Paris perfume dash today and only missed Caron (which the Breadwinner says we can visit tomorrow). I bought my promised bell-jar of Chêne - which seems smaller and cuter than I pictured it - as well as a Nicolai Pour Homme in 30 ml (God bless that sensible company) and an 11 Euro Crazylibelulle and the Poppies Ginger and Coconut at the drugstore. I think I'll go back to buy a Bigarade Concentree at Frederic Malle tomorrow so all you JCE fans can laugh at me now. Chanel was a highlight: I love 31 Rue Cambon, especially, and Coromandel, once the top notes settle. The No. 18 is truly intriguing and going to take a while for me sort out - I kind of catch a whiff of a beautiful rose/iris blend but mostly I get, well, pickle. And if you want pickle, I'd recommend JAR Shadow, which the devastatingly suave Joseph allowed me to try. (My other surprise favourite was Ferme Tes Yeux.)

At Serge Lutens, I enjoyed and tested Cuir Mauresque, but the one that crept up on me was MKK, which didn't smell like much on the old, dried-out tester strip the SA insisted on giving me, but smelled WONDERFUL when I snuck some onto a new strip: sweeter than I thought, comforting, indeed somewhat like Chene and not at all like sweaty feet. No chance to try it on the skin, but I got wax samples. As for the exports I had not tried, I must be contrary, because I liked both the buttery Rousse and the woody Chypre Rouge. (The latter I had tested in Sephora, and the Breadwinner pronounced it the best of the seven thousand tester strips I was carrying.)

I don't think I'm going to get anything from Guerlain, but the store is wonderful and they win the award for best SA: thanks Julia! Really what I want is the limited edition Chant D'Arome extrait, and I don't think I'll be taking it home for 245 Euro an once.

Monday, February 19, 2007

Off Sniffin'

Well, friends, I will be heading for Europe in less than 24 hours. I return in time for my daughter's first birthday on March 9th, but I'm hoping to check in once or twice for short posts and to delete all the comments on commercial "sex". All the best to all of you; have a great couple of weeks.

(P.S. - I forgot I need to seek out Jules. I've been wracking my brain late at night. What else?)

Sunday, February 11, 2007

Planning for Paris

Though a lover of categories, sorting systems and guides, I am by no means a list-maker - that is, I never write down "Things to Do". Gearing myself up in anticipation of my trip, however, and worrying I will not get to test a masterpiece, I have been making mental lists of places to go and scents to sniff in France. I have a generous yet still limiting budget of 305 Euros (about $400 US) and one or two full days for sniffage in Paris. (We will be visiting London for two days, but will be jet-lagged. Also, we plan on spending a day in Grasse by the Fragonard and Molinard factories. Our "home base" is Nice.) Below is my plan; please suggest things I'm obviously missing. As well, feel free to tell me I'm a fool and will never get to all these places with the time and skin I have.

Serge Lutens Les Salons du Palais Royal Shiseido: One of a few must-sees on my list, this is the only place I know for certain I'm purchasing something: a bell-jar of Chêne. Besides soaking in the décor and the polite chill of the sales assistants, I also must do some thorough testing of the three exclusive scents I have never sampled before: Muscs Koublaï Khan, Cuir Mauresque and Un Lys. I'm hoping I'm allowed to do a skin test of Bois Oriental as well, since the tiny sample vial I tried previously may have hampered my ability to gauge its impact: all I got was a little dusting of spice with a warm, vanillic skin aspect. (See my Les Eaux Boisées reviews here.)

Parfums de Nicolaï: Less than half a mile away from Serge Lutens is the flagship store of Parfums de Nicolaï. The fact that I'm still mournfully sniffing my completely dry sample vial of Nicolaï Pour Homme suggests to me that I should buy a bottle of this one, and I've heard the prices in France on Nicolaï products are better than the North American ones, but I shall have to wait and see. On the sampling side, I've wanted to try Vie de Château for some time. Generally, I find the Nicolaï perfumes for women too sweet and tonka-based for me, but I am interested in the brand new Maharanih, since the listed notes include lavender, geranium, sandalwood and amber - just like my beloved Nicolaï Pour Homme. Also, I'd like to check out a few of the "Light" versions of the women's classics said to be sold at the Paris outlets only.

Guerlain Boutique on the Champs Elysées: The Guerlain boutique is another definite stop. Though I am somewhat confused by the mention of various addresses and set-ups (organ? fountains?) for the main Guerlain boutique, I assume I am going to be allowed to sniff anything I want from the current collection in any concentration I want. I'm looking into buying what the Guerlain website describes as a "Bees Spray" of Après l'Ondée EdT, and I am probably most anxious to test Mitsouko in parfum form. Also interesting to me are Chamade, Chant d'Arôme, Parure and the current "undelete" or limited edition (is it still Sous le Vent? I've tried that one...)

Caron Boutique, 90 rue Faubourg- St. Honoré: Caron will probably necessitate a stop, since I have never tried Tabac Blond. To my shame. I would also like to try Pois de Senteur (although it does not sound to my taste) and Aimez Moi (which is not showing up on the Caron website anymore for some reason?)

Chanel at 31 Rue Cambon: The stop here, of course, would be to try the new Exclusifs. No matter how madly I fall in love with, say, No. 18 or 31 Rue Cambon, I refuse to buy a vat of it. I will wait patiently until someone (me?) organizes a bottle split. I am going to need a liquid sample or three, however, and will probably have to bribe a sales assistant into them; I may even take along some empty vials, as Ina bravely did.

Frédéric Malle at 21 Rue du Mont Thabor: While I already smelled this whole line two years ago at Barneys in Los Angeles, when I bought my beloved Thérèse, I have felt that I gave several scents short shrift at that time: in particular, I would like to revisit Vétiver Extraordinaire and Cologne Bigarade. I don't remember testing Lys Mediterranée at all, so I should probably re-do that one, too.

Old England: Not too far from our hotel is the Old England store, recommended to me by a Parisian fragrance addict, "carmencanada" as some of you may know her. She suggested the store's men fragrance section is particularly well-stocked and they carry many niche lines that I have sorely neglected. In particular, I'd like to (re)try Creed's Bois du Portugal and Cypres-Musc, Knize's Sec and Forest, Penhaligon's Opus 1870 and Parfums d'Empire Eau de Glorie.

Etat Libre d'Orange: If I get a chance to try these much-discussed scents, I'll focus on Vierges et Toreros, Jasmin et Cigarette, Rien and Putain des Palaces.

I think that's enough to contemplate at the moment. I've sampled most of the Annick Goutals, though not many in EdP - still, I think I won't have too much trouble getting what I need from the line in North America. Jean Patou would tempt me much more if they had the Ma Collection available for sniffage. I've not had luck with the Montales I've tried so far, and the Miller et Bertaux's - the first three of which I enjoyed - I can get online. L'Artisan I'm going to try to avoid because their line is so full and interesting that I will surely be overwhelmed with all the ones I want to purchase. Also, I already have two L'Artisan scents that I seldom wear because I loved them initially, but the transparency and lack of classical development eventually got to me. Oh okay, I will try Timbuktu. And.... well, I would like to try Molinard's Tendre Friandise. And what else?

Update: Of course, I did forget J.A.R. My wonderful spouse got me a sample of Bolt of Lightning for Christmas and it is wonderful and unusual, if highly unwearable for your average day. While I certainly cannot afford to buy any of the scents, I do think that everybody should attempt to experience these, so I'm particularly interested in Jarling, Jardenia (I ain't afraid of no cheese) and Shadow.

Wednesday, February 07, 2007

Don't Stand So Close to Me

Well, thanks to the fabulous Leopoldo, I have finally been able to sample Serge Lutens La Myrrhe. It arrives last week and seems great in the vial, so I spray it on, hold my forearm to my nose and - ack! After an initial pleasant blast of mandarin, it smells on me like the men's bathroom: cold white tile, hand soap, urinal cakes, "floral" ammoniac disinfectant, and, well... licorice all-sorts and candied nuts (okay, so those don't really fit). The sweet but sharply acidic citrus of the top notes battles against the soapy, waxy basic quality of the aldehydes, and in the heart, the myrrh's airy licorice facets collide with the inedible desiccated resinous side. Underneath is a musky honey base that smells at close range like stale pee in a subway tunnel. I had heard La Myrrhe described as "boring" or a knock-off of Chanel No. 5. All I can say is: not on me.

Luckily, I resisted the urge to scrub. Half an hour after application, I found myself walking around in a very nice little cloud. Something smelled refreshing yet sweet, both well-scrubbed and appetizing. I sniffed my wrist suspiciously. Urinal cakes. I sniffed the cloud. Milked-bathed virgin drinking a pastis and soda. Wrist: urinal cakes. Hmm, I could have sworn the cloud was emanating from me. Was it an olfactory hallucination? (I have auditory hallucinations in the shower all the time. I leap out dripping, absolutely certain I heard the baby crying, the phone ringing, my husband whistling or the Good Humor ice cream truck. The day will soon come when I hear voices in there whispering that I must eliminate my eBay rival for vintage minis.) Searching for the cloud, I extended my arm. From about two feet, my wrist smelled very nice. La Myrrhe has lovely sillage - it's just the close-up ain't pretty.

For the average person, it is just dandy to attract others with a wonderful wake of scent. A perfume fanatic, however, is not the average person; like all obsessions, a preoccupation with perfume is self-centered. The scent is for me - nobody else could possibly care so much.

Now then, there's also Caron. A while ago, I purchased a bottle of Parfum Sacre EdP, online and unsniffed (gasp!). I had nursed a number of Caron extrait samples to completion with tiny sparing little dabs and thoroughly enjoyed a number of them, smelling no sign of the dreaded, dated, moldy Caron base some people mention. I excitedly opened my Parfum Sacre, sprayed with abandon, and smelled... well, mildew. Not mildew exactly, but spores - that strange combination of black pepper and burnt dust that accompanies damp rot. The perfume was marvelous otherwise, but the note was there, lurking in the middle stages. Then I got Bellodgia EdP in a swap and it was fabulous, no fungi at all, a powdery and yet rich, almost boozy scent which beautifully evokes the bright beauty of the old world (Bellagio). I had heard it had been reformulated, but there was certainly still a vintage quality to it - just no fustiness.

The luminosity of Bellodgia got me thinking longingly about my extrait samples, so I purchased a Farnesiana bottle split from Patty at Perfume Posse. It arrived and... spores! In the miniscule amounts I had applied to myself previously they were undetectable, but now they were clearly there. I went to bed to cry myself to sleep and suddenly got a little waft of a pure golden light. When I was little, my mother often made a fine trifle out of rich homemade custard, toasted almonds and cherries . This trifle was to the little waft of Farnesiana as that dessert made of canned mandarin oranges and shredded coconut is to the mythical ambrosia (sorry Mom!) - an earthly imitation. The projected scent was just heartbreaking, so heartbreaking I quickly got over my addiction to sniffing my wrist and just bathed in the golden air of my sillage.

Monday, February 05, 2007

Seasons of Scent

The first thing I used to visualize whenever somebody brought up seasonal colouring analysis is Michael Moore being draped with hideous orange fabric in Roger & Me. I always thought of it as a cheesy eighties gimmick employed only by Amway or Mary Kay salespeople at ladies luncheons. Also, it seemed like nobody actually knew how to do it: in Moore's documentary, Janet the professional "colour consultant" somehow finds out belatedly that she's actually a Spring. I've been told: a) I'm a Winter because I'm a brunette; b) I'm a Spring because I have greenish (hazel) eyes and freckles; and c) I'm a Summer because I look tanned. Every colour palette I'd ever seen for these seasons included colours that made me look like I'd eaten tainted clams. Several weeks ago, I decided to do some Internet research and find out my season.

Lo and behold, I am an obvious Autumn: yellow undertone, chestnut hair, hazel eyes. Like many other people, I had thought all Autumns were red-heads, and had therefore ignored the colour advice for fall complexions. When I read the suggestions for the right season, things suddenly made a lot more sense. My best tawny blush and sage eyeshadow? The eggplant-coloured dress I refuse to throw away despite the fact it's a size 4? My collection of brown and camel coats? My olive t-shirt that is the husband's favourite and the cayenne-coloured top he became suicidal over when I ruined it with bleach? These are all the spicy, earthy, woody tones recommended for autumns. And then - because they always do - my thoughts turned to fragrances. Mostly, I like... hmm, well... spicy, earthy, woody tones. I'm not suggesting that every perfume I love could be considered fall-appropriate - in fact, I'm jealous of some of my faves that seem suited to other seasons - or that I like every scent in this category. I'm certainly not saying that my skin chemistry cooperates with my colouring either - I'm just saying my nose is most often attracted to the gilded, rich, slightly melancholy scents of harvest-time. The following is a tongue-firmly-in-cheek exercise in finding your seasonal scents.

A note if you're confused by the skintones: I think most people are good at determining the intensity of their eye and hair colour (intense and darker or bright and paler), but have trouble telling whether they have a warm (yellow) or cool (blue) base tone to their skin. The best trick I have come across is to hold a substantial piece of gold or silver jewelry to your face. If the gold looks brighter and your blush is peachy or sandy, you're warm and a Spring or Autumn. If silver pieces (and clear diamonds) shine bright and they highlight the pink of your cheeks, you're cool and a Winter or Summer. If you can't tell which looks better, randomly guess. As my online searches have taught me, this is a very inexact science.

Winters - The easiest look to recognize, Winters usually have dark hair and dark or intensely coloured eyes. This group is the most dramatic and strikingly high contrast of the colourings , and therefore look best in black as well as all strong, solid primary colours and jewel tones such as deep purple. Most women of Asian, African or Arabic descent are Winters. Liz Taylor is the iconic ice queen; recent celebrity Winters include Sandra Oh, Selma Hayek, Halle Berry and Winona Ryder. For scents, Winters rock the eyelinered orientals: the big vanillas, chocolates and ambers, the animal and leather bases, the velvety cloves and clouds of smoke... basically anything that goes with a little black dress, pearls and a pout of red lipstick. Bvlgari Black, Caron Tabac Blond, Chanel Coco in EdP or parfum, Serge Lutens Fumerie Turque, i Profumo di Firenze Ambra del Nepal, L'Artisan Dzing! and Fendi Theorema would all fit the bill. Powders, black (Kenzo Flower Oriental), white (Chanel No. 22, Comme des Garçons White) and boudoiresque (Lorenzo Villoresi Teint de Neige, Balenciaga Rumba) would do too. Finally, Winters should seek out warmers (Caron Nuit de Noel, Donna Karan Chaos) and chillers (Frederic Malle Vetiver Extraordinaire, Comme des Garçons Incense Series Zagorsk, CB I Hate Perfume Winter 1972).

Springs - Springs look like they "bleed pure butterscotch" (like Bunny from Fred Exley's A Fan's Notes). Strawberry and honey blondes and brunettes with "peaches and cream" complexions and paler eyes are Springs. If you are that rare woman who carry off a coral gloss, but dark lipstick and true white or black clothing makes you look as if you are clawing your way out of the grave, then you are a Spring. A historical Spring is All-American pinup Rita Hayworth; current Spring celebs include Nicole Kidman, Gillian Anderson and Lindsay Lohan. Springs look best in bright, crisp colours like grass and emerald greens, true reds, coral and watermelon, clear blues and aqua, golden yellow and ivory. Their scents are clear, bright and transparent greens and cool or dewy florals: Dior Diorissimo, Gobin Daude Seve Exquise, Annick Goutal Eau de Ciel, Guerlain Apres L'Ondée, Diptyque Do Son, Hermes Hiris, L'Artisan Premier Figuier, Gucci Envy and Bvlgari Eau Parfumée au Thé Vert. Sometimes Springs should choose perfumes with earthy or musky basenotes that heighten the freshness of the heart: CB I Hate Perfume Black March, Guerlain Jicky, Serge Lutens Fleur de Citronnier and Ormonde Jayne Champaca.

Summers - Summers are the blond bombshells; most natural blondes, especially ash blondes, and cool-coloured, paler brunettes with blue, green, grey or sometimes amber eyes are Summers. Marilyn Monroe was a Summer; reigning Summers are Gwyneth Paltrow, Denise Richards and Sara Jessica Parker. Summers look best in soft, muted shades - pastels and icy or rosy shades as well as true white. Day scents for Summers include classic and fruity chypres and hesperidia. Think bracing summer drinks (Jean Patou Cocktail, Guerlain Sous le Vent, Etro Anice), sunshine scents (Guerlain Aqua Allegoria Pamplelune, Serge Lutens Chergui, Parfums de Nicolai Balle de Match, New York and Eau D'Ete), bright, fruit-infused florals (Ormonde Jayne Osmanthus, Les Parfums de Rosine Ecume de Rose and J.A.R. Bolt of Lightning) and beaches (Annick Goutal Vetiver). Rochas Femme is a summer scent if you go light. Orange blossoms are made for this season. You can get away with more heft at night, so some slinkier white flowers are great.

Autumns - If you have chestnut, copper, golden brown or auburn hair, golden (amber, hazel or green) eyes and beige, golden or olive skin, you are an Autumn like me. Warm, rich colours for us: forest and olive greens, camel, oranges and rusts, browns and neutrals, winey shades and orangey reds. Sophia Loren is an Autumn, and so are Natalie Portman, Jessica Alba and Sigourney Weaver. Chanel Bois des Iles, Parfums de Nicolai Nicolai Pour Homme, Serge Lutens Chene, Guerlain Mitsouko, Les Parfums des Rosine Une Folie de Rose, Frapin 1270, Fendi Asja, Caron Alpona and Yatagan, CB I Hate Perfume Burning Leaves and Gathering Apples, Ginestet Le Boise and L'Artisan Tea for Two all seem like fall scents to me.

So, does your colouring match your fragrance preferences?

Friday, February 02, 2007

Chanel Exclusifs

Do yourself a favour and check out the link to the right to Luca Turin's Duftnote for the month. In this month's article, he reviews the six new exclusive boutique Chanel scents, created by Christopher Sheldrake and Jacques Polge. His opinion? "If you only have room for six perfumes in your life, clear your shelf." Gods and credit cards be praised.