Monthly Archives: July 2017

Mainstream Perfumes – Mood Scent 4

Welcome to the latest instalment in the Mood Scent 4 blogging project. (If you missed the previous posts they were about Rainy Day Perfumes and Wedding Guest Perfumes). Today, my fellow bloggers and I are sharing our mainstream perfume picks.

Ninety-nine percent of the time I write about – and wear – fragrances other than those from the mainstream. When I fell down the rabbit-hole I snubbed my previous ‘duty free’ choices in favour of niche and high-end boutique fragrances such as Les Exclusifs de Chanel.

Now I’m coming full circle. The niche perfumes – generally starting at £150 for 50ml – are becoming more and more unremarkable. I’m starting to re-assess and re-appreciate what is available on the high street.

I’ve limited my choices below to the fragrances available at my local Beauty Base.

 

Mood scent purple

 

Infusion d’Iris L’Absolue EDP by Prada

Notes: Neroli, orange blossom, iris, mastic, benzoin, tonka bean, vanilla and white musk.

The original Infustion d’Iris is great; a wash of light blue with a flash of orange and tints of green. However my preferred version is L’Absolue which takes it to whole other level. As the name suggests, the iris is beefed-up with a nice dose of rootiness and an improved amount of throw. I love iris but it’s hard to find high quality, straight-up versions at your local perfume emporium. This is a total winner.

 

iris prada

 

Agent Provocateur (AP Signature) by Agent Provocateur 

Notes: Saffron, rose, jasmine, magnolia, coriander, vetiver, amber and musk.

My sister used to wear this and it was fantastic on her. Agent Provocateur is a fresh, blush rose wrapped in a big, fluffy cloud. It’s pleasing when a perfume fits the brand perfectly, the way it does here. The scent is a boudoir mist of rosy powder and femininity. I don’t get anything animalistic from it. To me it’s a coquettish, girlie perfume, in the best way. If you search online, you can get it for a song.

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No.19 EdP by Chanel

Notes: Green notes, bergamot, rose, iris, vetiver, oakmoss and leather.

No.19 is old-school chic at its finest. Can you think of two more rarefied materials than iris and galbanum? The soft aldehydes at early doors settle down to a gently powdery finish. When you put this on, don’t be surprised to find yourself standing a little taller. I liked the Poudré version but it lasted all of 30 minutes on me. Apparently the EdP is not merely a different concentration but a reinterpretation. The high street doesn’t get much classier.

no 19

Eau des Merveilles by Hermes

During summer, it’s tempting to reach for a fragrance which makes you feel like you’ve spent the day on the beach. Eau des Merveilles combines salty skin with joy inducing orange. The scent dries down to a hollowed-out woody amber which takes its lead from ambergris rather than oriental amber. I find its tenacity a little wearing after a while but it’s a good alternative to the usual coconut-heavy, ‘resort perfumes’.

eau des merveilles

Encre Noire by Lalique

There are quite a few great mainstream fragrances aimed at men, such as Terre de Hermes and Dior’s Eau SauvageEncre Noire is a forest vetiver loved by women as well as men. It’s wonderfully aromatic, opening up in a glade of pine trees before letting the smoky vetiver take centre-stage. You can read my full review of this and the flanker Encre Noire A L’Extreme here.

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Don’t miss the mainstream scents chosen by my pals at L’Esperessence, Megan In Sainte Maxime and I Scent You A Day.

 

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Which mainstream perfumes do you think are of note?

 

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Moon Bloom, Shangri La and Dilettante by Hiram Green

When artisan perfumer Hiram Green kindly offered to send me fragrance samples from his home in The Netherlands, the first one I thought of was Arbolé Arbolé. I’d heard great things about it but as it turned out, this was the one that suited me the least (I find orientals tricky). Therefore I’ll refer you to Val the Cookie Queen’s wonderful post about it on APJ here.

Below are my thoughts on the other three, all-natural, Eau de Parfums.

 

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Shangri La 

Notes: Citrus, peach, jasmine, rose, iris, spices, vetiver, and oakmoss. 

Shangri La is Hiram Green’s interpretation of the classic chypre, a century after Coty started the genre with the original of the same name.

Of course this is a modern version but its genre is recognisable straight away.  There’s peachy citrus undercut by a background of oakmoss, which instantly reminds me of  Mitsouko.  You should give Shangri La a try if you already love the iconic Guerlain or you want to but don’t, because this is much more accessible.  It still has the humid feel and oakmoss of Mitsouko but the peach is much more juicy.  Shangri La possesses that full-bodied sophistication that is so characteristic of chypres.

 

Dilettante

Notes: Orange Flower, Petitgrain, Orange Essential Oil

I’m always hopeful when trying an orange blossom perfume but all too often they are overly soapy or indolic. However Dilettante is pitch perfect. Within the first few seconds alone I get all the aromatic aspects of the orange tree: zesty fruit, green leaves and lush blossom.

Orange blossom, pettigrain and orange essential oil are such fantastic natural materials that they are ideal for an all-natural perfume. You really don’t need much else. Dilettante is smooth, sunlit and full of orange flower goodness, becoming mellower yet richer over time.  It moves through all the shades of orange from bright flame through to burnished gold. It’s a simple composition that just works. Summer is exactly the right time to try it too: no other type of fragrance is so full of liquid sunshine. Yum.

 

Moon Bloom

Notes: Tuberose Absolute, Jasmine Absolute, Ylang Ylang, Coconut, Leafy Greens, Spices and Resins.

I own some tuberose absolute and I much prefer it to the often headache inducing synthetic version. It is fresh, narcotic, tropical, buttery and fleshy, as well as deeply sensual. You get all of that in Moon Bloom as well as the facet that smells like bubblegum. Admittedly tuberose is not my favourite material but I appreciate it for how incredibly striking and complex it is.  Here it’s complemented with other white florals and fresh green notes.

In contrast to most tuberose perfumes, Moon Boom hums at a low register, intensifying its sultry feel. The coconut is not immediately obvious but adds a creamy texture and rounds out the composition while also accentuating the exotic feel, stopping short of beachy. This is a nocturnal fragrance for hot and humid nights and a must-try for tuberose fans.

 

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None of these three fragrances suffer from the dual criticisms of flatness or short-life which are usually leveled at natural perfumery. All are available in a 50ml bottle and 10ml Travel Size (hurrah!).

Have you tired any of Hiram Green’s perfumes? If not, do any of the above pique your interest?

 

 

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Curious EdP and Perfume by Aftelier Perfumes

Notes: Tobacco, Hay, Smoke, Orange Leaf, Siam Wood and Dirty Orange.

 

A project that has been three years in the making has finally come to fruition: the Aftel Archive of Curious Scents is now open in Berkeley, California.  Here, artisan perfumer Mandy Aftel shares her personal and unique collection of aromatic materials and antique books.

Visitors can experience over three hundred natural essences and connect with the ingredients that have inspired people over centuries, but which are sadly used much less in perfumery today.

 

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The ambergris exhibit: Archive of Curious Scents

 

The atmosphere of the Archive was the inspiration behind Curious, the latest release from Aftelier Perfumes. There is even an exhibit that breaks down the fragrance note by note so that visitors can see how the essences weave together to create the finished scent.

 

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The camphor-like, leafy opening of Curious suggests bracing air and pine forests.  As it settles, there is the scent of green saplings and creamy white woods over a beguiling mixture of moss and ash. ‘Dirty orange’ is a great descriptor because while the orange leaf is verdant and fresh at the start, it later morphs into a spiral of peel rubbed with earth. I think it’s the orange nuances which lift Curious and give it an extra dimension.

The drydown is a smoky botanical musk; unlike anything I’ve tried before.  The smokiness isn’t tarry or rubbery the way it is in leather fragrances – or indeed the fantastic Vanilla Smoke.  Imagine instead slender grey plumes twisting skywards from a woodland fire.

Mandy thinks of tobacco absolute as nature’s musk and combined with hay absolute the way it is in Curious, creates an aromatic muskiness without the laundry sheet or skanky facets often present in synthetic musks. It drapes across the skin and melds with your own chemistry.

It’s redolent of the outdoors while possessing the texture of fur and the way it plays with the animal and the vegetal is compelling. As usual, Mandy has made a composition that is as clever as it is rewarding.

Unlike many smoky/musky perfumes, Curious has an enigmatic quality that makes it beautifully mysterious.

When comparing the EdP and the Perfume, I would say the EdP is airier with more swirling smoke, while the Perfume is more potent but sits closer to the skin. Out of the two, the EdP is more my style, but I can see plenty of people soaking up the depth of the Perfume.

In either formulation, it is a fascinating fragrance in the truest sense of the word. Its complexity and presence hold my attention with ease. It absolutely does trigger your curiosity as you try and get a handle on exactly what you’re inhaling.

If Curious is what the Archive smells like then it must be a feast for the senses as well as an enthralling exploration into the history of perfumery.

 

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Do you like the idea of a smoky musk perfume? Would you love to visit the Archive of Curious Scents one day?

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Read Any Good Books Lately?

 

During the spring I went on a mini detour into Greek Mythology. Of course, it all started with a book…

The Song of Achilles by Madeline Miller

This is such a gorgeous book in terms of both the writing and the story. Miller re-imagines the story of Achilles from the point of view of his childhood friend. Exiled and awkward, Patroclus is mesmerised with the beautiful golden boy and half-God, Achilles. He finds his feelings are reciprocated when he follows him to Mount Pellion and then into the Trojan War. This is first and foremost an uncommon love story.

 

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Greek Myths by Kathryn Waterfield and Robin Waterfield

The Song of Achilles made me curious to learn more about the Greek myths. This book appeared to be pretty accessible which is what I was after. It’s not too difficult to follow at first, but my goodness, the Greek myths contain a cast of thousands.  I found it impossible to keep track, not least because many of the names are a mouthful to non-Greek speakers. However, it gave me a good idea of the main protagonists and stories.

 

The Penelopiad by Margaret Atwood (Canongate Myths Series Book 2)

Reading the Greek myths often feels like a never-ending succession of sex and violence (and not in a good way). Needless to say, women tend to get a raw deal, so it was good to find a book that gives voice to the women who are used and abused.

Much is made of Odysseus’s wily character but what happened to his wife Penelope while he was off fighting the Trojan War and undertaking his legendary odyssey? Here Penelope looks back from her place in the underworld during the present and tells her side of the story.

I enjoyed it and liked the wry asides about modern life.

 

Penelopiad

 

For The Most Beautiful by Emily Hauser

I started a sample of this take on the Trojan War/Helen of Troy story with once again, a female slant, but didn’t go as far as to download the book. Please let me know below if you’ve read it or any of the original Classical literature such as The Iliad.

 

The Fellowship of the Ring by J.R.R. Tolkien

I enjoyed The Hobbit and felt prepared to tackle The Lord of Rings trilogy. I enjoyed the chapters I read but I was going at a snail’s pace. I concluded this was because it didn’t seem to fit the hot, sunny, summer weather. After barely progressing over the course of a month, I decided to shelve it until the autumn.

 

Aristotle and Dante Discover the Secrets of the Universe by Benjamin Alire Saenz

This book proved I wasn’t in a reading slump because I whizzed through it. Admittedly it’s a quick YA read with short chapters, but I loved the characters. It’s the tale of two teenage friends, Dante and Ari, growing up in El Paso during the late 1980s. Although it’s a simple story, I found it beautiful.

 

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We Should All Be Feminists by Chimamanda Ngozi Adichie    

This is a slightly extended version of Chimamanda’s wonderful TEDx Talk. It’s only 65 pages and available on Kindle for 99p. I must read one of her novels soon. Please let me know below if you have a favourite or can suggest the best one to start with.

 

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What have you been reading lately? Any good reads to recommend?

 

 

 

 

 

 

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Encre Noire and Encre Noire A L’Extreme by Lalique

Notes: Cypress, Vetiver Bourbon, Vetiver Haiti, Woods and Musk.

I’ve never been one to wear ‘masculine fragrances’ or perfumes centred around veitver. However Encre Noire – black ink – has always held a certain fascination for me. I know  a lot of women love it and I like the way the bottle resembles a bottle of ink.

 

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A little while ago I got samples of the original EdT (released in 2006) and one of the flankers, Encre Noire à l‘Extrême EdP (released last year).

 

Encre Noire EdT

 

The first half of Encre Noire is focused on cypress which is like being dropped into the midst of a dense, dark green grove. It has the feel of an aromatic incense perfume, like Armani’s Bois d’ Encens.  The veitver gently wafts up from underneath, like earth permeating a layer of pine needles lying on the forest floor. What’s great is that the cypress lasts right through to the base.

Swampy vetiver accords turn my stomach; a kind of grassy ditch water aroma that I can’t abide. Encre Noire thankfully doesn’t have that, even when the cypress eventually fades and the vetiver comes into full effect. It has more of the smoky kind of veitver, which is probably down to the inclusion of vetiver bourbon.

What I do like about vetiver is its strength.  Wearing Encre Noire, you can feel that characteristic certainty – an unshakeable self belief that will get you where you want to go. At the same time, it has a head-clearing quality which would indeed make it ideal to wear while writing or whenever you need to focus.

 

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Encre Noire à l’Extrême EdP

 

Encre Noire à l‘Extrême opens up at a much lower pitch without the deep green waft of cypress. It’s dark and dusty from the start, like an unexplored attic in a crumbling mansion.

While the original Encre Noire is centring yet expansive, Encre Noire à l‘Extrême is more intense. It’s also more intimate and rather seductive with its light veil of powdered musk. The hazy, dry woods present are just as soft and malleable.

The two iterations converge in the base where they are reduced to tones of grey, like a charcoal drawing.

Encre Noire à l’Extrême conjures up darkness in a way that is soothing and mysterious rather than alienating. Imagine being relieved when night falls because you can take off your mask and finally be your true self.  It’s a sophisticated vetiver which has been polished and stripped of its vegetal harshness. More than ink, it makes me think of grey mist; the outline of a stranger in the gloom.

 

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Both incarnations of the fragrance have bucketfuls of atmosphere, especially for mainstream offerings. I’d recommend giving it a try if you like intriguing, dry scents which feel grounding. It’d make a good choice for those who want an alternative to the sugary confections filling up the shelves in the high street.

 

How you get along with vetiver? Have you tried any version of Encre Noire?

 

 

 

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