Category Archives: Perfume Reviews

Parallel by 4160 Tuesdays and Get Lippie

Notes: Rose Absolute, Frankincense, Black Pepper and White Woods, Caraway and Mandarin Petitgrain.

As you may know, a few years ago beauty and perfume blogger Louise Woollam of Get Lippie experienced the nightmarish olfactory dysfunction, parosmia. She lost her sense of smell after a cold but when it came it back, nothing smelled as it should and most things smelt absolutely awful. You can see her talking about this traumatic time in her life tonight in Episode 5 of Incredible Medicine: Dr Weston’s Casebook on BBC Two at 9pm.

The fragrance Paradox was created with perfumer Sarah McCartney in a successful attempt to make a scent Louise could actually enjoy at this very dark time. It was a lovely, chilled, green violet perfume with a touch of lavender and spine of orris.

Now, to celebrate her sense of smell returning to normal, they have reunited to make the spicy oriental Louise has always wanted. The result is Parallel which again is available from 4160 Tuesdays. I love how, like most of the perfumes, you can get it in a 30ml bottle.

 

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The mood boosting, citrus green-ness of mandarin petitgrain characterises the opening of Parallel and it feels like a fitting start to the optimistic story this perfume is telling. Louise must have felt such excitement as well as relief when things started to smell as they should once again.

The core of Parallel is a combination of peppery resin and almost creamy orange. It starts out punchy and invigorating and smooths out to create a constant, orange-tinted resinous buzz.  It’s backed up by soft cashmere  woods and just a splash of rose. This isn’t an all-natural perfume but there’s something about its simplicity and oil-like quality on the skin that reminds me of one.

Those wary of big orientals need not fear as Parallel stays close to the body. Far from being overwhelming, I find it extremely easy to wear and I’m not drawn to this genre usually.

It’s lovely that Sarah and Louise came together once more under much happier circumstances to create a perfume which completes this scented story. I’m looking forward to seeing the tale being told on tonight’s programme which is all about those with rare conditions. It also features a man whose bones are stronger than granite and a woman with two wombs.

It will serve as an important reminder that even if you can’t triumph over a medical condition you can always find ways around obstacles in order to live a life truly worth living. This is something I try to tell myself every day.

 

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Guest Posting on APJ

I’m slipping into Portia’s skyscraper heels today on Australian Perfume Junkies as she continues to whirl her way across Europe, landing in London at the end of this month. Can’t wait!

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Portia and I in Venice around this time last year.

 

So if you’d like to read my thought on Sensual Orchid by LM Parfums you can hop across to my review on APJ by clicking here.

Do check out Portia’s brilliant Scent Diary posts while you’re there.

 

 

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Mon Guerlain by Guerlain

 

“My invisible tattoo, my fragrance, Mon Guerlain.”

Notes:  Bergamot, Carla Lavender, Paradisone (radiant floral), Coumarin, Iris, Vanilla Tahitensis, Sambac Jasmine and Album Sandalwood.

 

Guerlain has long been the perfume house I’ve most admired. They are not a designer brand that does fragrance on the side to bring in the big bucks – they have only ever been about the scent.

However, a while ago I gave up on their new releases because for me, they never lived up to the promise of the past. I tried to switch-off and content myself with the classics, such as my holy grail, Vol de Nuit. However, it’s hard to ignore this recent big launch, especially as they have Angelina Jolie fronting the ad campaign.

 

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Mon Guerlain may have some nicely musty lavender in its top notes along with some citrus sparkle but this is no 21st century Jicky.  Guerlain categorise it as a “fresh oriental” although I’d describe it as a gourmand with a feather-light fougère accord (which comes from the combination of lavender and hay-like coumarin).

I wasn’t surprised that Mon Guerlain is another sugary confection, especially given the pink juice, but you might have expected otherwise if you knew the inspiration was Angelina’s “strong, free and sensual femininity”.

Perhaps it’s naive to think it would – or should – reflect anything other that what is popular right now. The last time I looked, the number one selling perfume in France was still the iris-drowning-in-caramel that is La Vie Est Belle.

Mon Guerlain is nowhere near as invasive as the Lancome, or even Chanel’s Allure which features a similarly frothy cloud of candy floss, albeit it at fifty times the volume. Unlike most other modern gourmands, Mon Guerlain is surprisingly soft spoken. There’s not much throw, which is an asset in my view. At least that closeness to the skin echoes a kind of tattoo-like intimacy.

Admittedly, I have a low tolerance for sweetness in perfume and am not generally a fan of this style but I still think it’s a shame that we no longer have to wait for the trademark Guerlain vanilla base. It used to be that you had time to anticipate your dessert – now it arrives with the starter. It also makes the fragrance less sophisticated because it’s missing that air of mystique. Mon Guerlain isn’t bad, it’s just not very compelling.

Without contrast there is no tension and without tension there is no excitement, no drama, no addiction. For that, see the coquettish caramelised lavender of Kiki by Vero Profumo who incidentally, had the fragrance as tattoo concept with Rozy back in 2014.

It’s funny, I commented on Bonkers About Perfume the other week about how I wasn’t pro negative reviews, but hopefully it’s clear I’m coming from the perspective of a long-time Guerlain fan and heavens knows they won’t be affected by what I write.

 

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It’s not my Guerlain but it may still be yours.

 

How have you fared with Guerlain’s releases of the last decade or so?

 

 

 

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February: A Month of Roses

At the start of February I joined Undina’s giveaway challenge (inspired by Chemist in the Bottle) to wear nothing but rose perfumes for the whole month. Being her usual fastidious self, Undina compiled a calendar with a different rose fragrance scheduled for each day. Me being me, I took a more scatter-bomb approach, grabbing whatever appealed on the day.

One of the positive side effects of the project, was that it made me go through my samples and decants to dig up the roses. I love rose perfumes anyway (obviously) but it was good to have the motivation to try – and use up – the samples and decants languishing around my house.

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Here’s what I wore over the course of the month –

Tobacco Rose by Papillon Perfumes (Full Bottle)

This is a  rose bush in a bottle with leaves, earth and hay. A rose found in early autumn to hold on to as nature reclaims summer’s florid show. You can take comfort from it in the same way you might from a walk in the woods. It’s a womanly, over-blown rose with depth and throw to spare. One spray will last all day and it’s one of the few perfumes I’ve been complimented on.

Rose Oud, By Kilian (Decant)

This was the first western oud fragrance I came across and it’s still my favourite. The quality of the velvety rose is outstanding and the combination of saffron and oud complement it beautifully. It really is a deep red rose in the middle of an arid desert.

Wild Roses by Aftelier Perfumes (Sample)

Mandy Aftel’s intention was to capture the rose in situ within the garden. It’s easy to forget that these flowers have such varied scents. At its heart we have a balsamic, honeyed rose but there are also subtle fruity and animalic facets. Taragon absolute represents the herb garden and the leaves of the rose bush, while patchouli roots it in the earth. It’s incredibly complex and potent, especially for an all-natural fragrance.

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Le Fille de Berlin by Serge Lutens (Full Bottle)

I love the vintage pin-up look but while the clothes and make-up don’t suit me, I can wear a beautiful retro rose/violet scent like this one. The softly musky amber base makes for a perfect finish. Unlike a lot of fragrance by Serge Lutens, La Fille de Berlin has a transparency that makes it extremely wearable. I wear this from spring through autumn.

Rozy Voile d’Extrait, Vero Profumo (Sample)

Rose may be the most recognisable facet of this oriental tour de force but there is so much more going on here. Smoked honey, amber and fruit swirl and buzz on the skin with a vital intensity. When I first encountered it, Rozy represented to me the complexity and power of untamed feminine energy – and it still does. Perfumer Vero Kern is someone l hugely admire and I can’t imagine anyone else making a rose-centred perfume remotely like this one.

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Rose de Nuit, Serge Lutens (Full Bottle)

It was nice to give my bell jar an airing. Rose de Nuit is a rosy musk more than it is a pure rose fragrance. It’s not skanky or headache-y but oily and unctuous. It’s a nocturnal harlot in perfume form who doesn’t believe in any such thing as the walk of shame. She’s brazen but sophisticated and oh-so-enticing.

Mille et Une Rose, Lancome (Decant)

Appropriately enough I won this decant on Undina’s Looking Glass. Mille et Une Rose is a soft yet deep, somewhat sweet rose with an amber base and a trail of musk. It makes me think of one of those pretty peach coloured roses with a multitude of petals, circling around and around, layer after layer. It’s velvety, easy to wear and rather romantic.

Velvet Rose, Senoma Scent Studio (Sample)

Again from Undina’s prize package, Velvet Rose is a sparkling, dewy rose. It’s a frothy cascade of pale pink tea roses with a touch of greenery. Delicate but long-lasting, it has that vintage cosmetic association that I really love. The more I inhale it, the more I enjoy it. It’s incredibly pretty and joyful.

The Coveted Duchess Rose by Penhaligon’s (Sample)

This recent release is part of the Portraits collection.  At first I’m thrown by a metallic green note but this does fade in the heart which is a fresh and fruity rose soliflore with a swirl of powdery sweetness. The base is a rosy woody musk. Green and/or fruity roses aren’t really my style but it’s nicely done and will no doubt be popular.

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Vaara, Penhaligon’s (Full Bottle)

Vaara has such an original and vivid start that the first time I tried it I was a tad disappointed that it ended up being a light and linear rose perfume. Now I just enjoy it for what it is – a refreshing rose perfume to wear in the summer with its striking opening of tart quince, creamy saffron and a splash of rosewater.

 

Did you take part in the Month of Roses? How did you get on? Could you wear roses day after day?

 

 

 

 

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Civet, Nightingale and Macaque by Zoologist Perfumes

I’m a great admirer of Zoologist Perfumes and am extremely happy to hear they are now being stocked in the UK by Bloom. It’s great to see an independent brand that is brim full of originality and making the most of artisan perfumers.

After writing about the first three fragrances (Rhinoceros, Beaver and Panda)  I was excited to try samples of some of the subsequent releases.

It’s worth noting that none of these – of any of their Eau de Parfums – contains animal products.

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Civet

Top Notes: Bergamot, Black Pepper, Lemon, Orange, Spices, Tarragon
Heart Notes: Carnation, Frangipani, Heliotrope, Hyacinth, Linden-blossom, Tuberose, Ylang
Base Notes: Balsams, Civet, Coffee, Incense, Labdanum, Musks, Oakmoss, Resins, Russian Leather, Vanilla, Vetiver, Woods

Perfumer: Shelley Waddington (En Voyage Perfumes)

I thought Civet was bound to be too much for this fragile flower but not so. Shelley Waddington was aiming for the effect of a fur coat over naked skin and that’s exactly what she’s achieved.  After a glittering citrus start, the warm vintage fur is draped around your shoulders. It’s a real stunner with facets of cosmetic powder, flower petals and body warmth. I find it sensual and a little heady rather than intimidatingly animalic. I particularly love its glamorously retro aura and the way it makes me feel cocooned.

The use of coffee in Civet is an inspired modern twist. You wouldn’t necessarily know it was there without the notes list but it adds a roasted depth which is subtle and – like the touch of vanilla – is blended nicely into the whole. The spices are also handled with a light touch. It doesn’t hit you over the head with its sex appeal but entices you to close your eyes and nuzzle it like a blissed-out feline.

Nightingale

Top Notes: Bergamot, Lemon, Saffron
Heart Notes: Japanese Plum Blossom, Red Rose, Violet
Base Notes: Oud, Patchouli, Sandalwood, Moss, Frankincense, White Musk, Labdanum, Ambergris

Perfumer: Tomoo Inaba

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Nightingale immediately showers you with plum blossom as if caught in a snowstorm of deep pink petals. It’s sweet and powdery, the way a combination of rose and violet often is. This cosmetic-style accord is underlined with a full-bodied opacity that comes from the patchouli and moss. It’s a vivid, striking opening to a perfume that has a unique character.  It’s fully embellished but doesn’t take itself too seriously.

A complex yet playful composition, Nightingale mellows out beautifully, developing that recognisable vintage chypre signature so many of us covet. I can imagine it successfully captures the feeling of celebration and optimism that comes with the onset of spring in Japan.  The tendrils of musk rising up from under its blush coloured skirts prevent it from coming across too innocent. Nightingale is ideal for lovers of classic chypres and the woman or man who is not afraid to indulge in a swathe of pink when the mood takes them.

Macaque

Top Notes: Cedar, Green Apple, Red Mandarin
Heart Notes: Frankincense, Galbanum, Honey, Rosewood, Ylang Ylang, Jasmine Tea
Base Notes: Cedarmoss, Green Tea, White Oud, Musk

Perfumer: Sarah McCartney (4160 Tuesdays)

I imagined a perfume named after a monkey would be about base instincts and therefore rather confrontational and even skanky. It’s actually the exact opposite. On spraying, I’m pleasantly surprised to find myself surrounded by clean air, the head-clearing scent of evergreens and a cascading waterfall. The aroma of lush vegetation and mossy undergrowth is cut nicely by tart citrus fruit.

Macaque is more about the mountain habitat than the mammal itself. It represents not only the forested slopes but the temple that overlooks it. There are the slimmest scented strands of frankincense, flower petal offerings and fragrant teas which drift across the canopy. It’s much more spiritual than beastly and extremely atmospheric. Macaque is a refreshing bright green fragrance which creates a sense of place, far away from our material world and its humdrum concerns.

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Do any of these fragrant creatures appeal to you? Do you have a favourite from the line?  

 

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Rahele by Neela Vermeire Creations

Notes of green mandarin, cardamom, cinnamon, violet leaf, osmanthus, rose, magnolia, jasmine, iris, violet, cedar, sandalwood, oakmoss, patchouli and leather.

Neela Vermeire Creations produce fabulously opulent scents that interpret India through French perfumery.  Their latest fragrance, Rahele (“Traveller”) was – as usual – composed by superstar perfumer Bertrand Duchaufour. It was inspired by three 17th Century French travellers to India whose books about the country left a lasting impression on many Europeans.

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Rahele sets off with a beautiful, perfectly rounded, green mandarin note. It’s like sniffing the whole fruit with its zesty peel and green leaves intact. It’s supported by that classic rose/iris accord which fondly reminds of old-fashioned cosmetics.

This is a perfume which is primarily focused on osmanthus and I soon pick up on its softly sweet, apricot-tinged, floral aroma. The effect gradually becomes riper and more vivid as we move into the heart of the fragrance. Although we are travelling, it’s at a leisurely pace.

Perhaps we are aboard The Palace on Wheels, the former Maharaja’s luxury train. I feel a real sense of calm, as if gently rocked by the carriage, gazing out entranced at the countryside passing by. It is indeed India several steps removed – viewed from someone who is only passing through, rather than up close and personal.

The florals are like watercolour smudges while the spices are treated with an incredibly light touch and only give the faintest sense of place. The apricot facet of osmanthus is emphasised in the opening and heart, while its suede-like facet is emphasised in the base. I love how the dry leather is backed by deep green oakmoss. It gives the drydown depth, contrast and sophistication. This is when the fragrance goes from being lovely to downright gorgeous.

Rahele is a thing of beauty; a soothing daydream of a faraway place overflowing with fruit and flora, but with a shadier side. It’s by far my favourite fragrance from NVC which seem to improve with every release. Their last creation, Pichola, was the first tuberose perfume I’ve fallen for, which is no small feat considering my usual aversion to the note.

The other perfumes in the line-up all have a lot of throw but Rahele takes a different path. It’s much more intimate and I find it all the more alluring for it. It entices you to come and explore just beyond the boundary. It whispers of untold lusciousness; a sheltered sanctuary where everything is unfurling for your eyes – and nose – only.

Although it may not be a heavy-hitter it is no will-0′-the-wisp. It’s incredibly tenacious, staying with me for most of the day.

This dream-like scent takes me out of my surroundings and out of myself.  It’s rare that a perfume can transport and soothe me to such a degree, but Rahele does just that.

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Have you tried Rahele? Do you like any osmanthus perfumes?

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Giveaway Winner Announced!

To celebrate my one year blogoversary on New Year’s Day, I held a giveaway for decants of two treasures from my perfume collection – Vega EDT and Vol de Nuit vintage parfum.

It was lovely to have so many people (22) enter the draw, a number of whom had been reading but not commented before. I hope you’ll join in again in the future.

I put the names into Random.org and the winner is bluefroggi.

Congratulations, bluefroggi! Please email me via abottledrose at gmail dot com with your postal address and I’ll keep everything crossed that your prize gets to you.

 

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Many thanks to everyone who entered and/or sent well wishes. I really appreciated it.

 

 

 

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In Rotation – December

For the last couple of years my perfume of choice for the festive season has been Tea for Two. It’s the spices that make it feel Christmassy. Funnily enough, I got a lot of cinnamon when I wore it last year but this year I’m mainly noticing the star anise. I wear it pretty much consistently from the 1st December until the 25th. One exception this month was a Board Meeting for which I chose Bois des Iles parfum. The golden sandalwood scent seemed to provide the right combination of sophistication and comfort.

 

 

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Last week we had the annual Perfume Lovers London Swap Meet which always causes much excitement. The idea is that you bring along the bottles you rarely wear and swap them for something someone else no longer wants. You get one raffle ticket for each bottle you contribute and then the numbers are drawn out of the hat, with 5 or so people going up to the table at a time to choose from what everyone has brought.

I took three bottles for swapping: vintage Diorella marked up as having a faulty sprayer in the hope someone could either fix or remove it; L’Eau Froide by Serge Lutens, which is a nice airy incense but not a patch on my holy grail Passage d’Enfer and finally, Poivre Piquant by L’Artisan Parfumeur which is a peppery milk and honey perfume with a splash of rose, but something I just never reach for.

It was a while before my first ticket was drawn but I spotted Ô de Lancome which I remembered Neil of The Black Narcissus writing about in his usual exquisite fashion, so I scooped that up. For my second  pick, again I saw a fragrance that I had a feeling another perfume pal (Ines) was fond of, Eau de Rochas. Read a lovely review of it by Angela on NST here.

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I was happy with these two swaps because I do have a gap in my collection for summery colognes with character.

By the time my third ticket was called the pickings were pretty slim but I got Bottega Veneta Eau Légère because I thought my work colleague would like it and indeed she does.

As for make-up, I’ve been wearing Sephora’s liquid lipstick in 01 Always Red because it’s a bold, Christmassy red. Although I’m starting to conclude these brighter reds don’t suit me so well,.it bears up really well to eating and drinking. I have my eye on the shade Blackberry Kiss for a future purchase.  I’ve been applying an equally festive shade to my nails; Pillow Talk by Leighton Denny.

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I felt bereft after finishing His Dark Materials but I’ve made a start on Wild: A Journey From Lost to Found by Cheryl Strayed. It’s the true story of a woman who decides to trek the length of the Pacific Crest Trail in the States when at her lowest ebb. I’m hoping it will inspire a less arduous adventure of my own next year. Ideally I’d like a Christmassy novel but aside from re-reading A Christmas Carol, I can’t think of anything.

 

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What have you been enjoying this month? Any Christmas themed books to recommend?

 

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Amber Tapestry by Aftelier Perfumes

What the world needs now…

Top Notes: Heliotropin, Yellow Mandarin
Middle Notes: Jasmine Grandiforum, Jasmine Sambac, Pear, Cinnamon
Base Notes: Ambreine, Labdanum, Maltol, Benzoin, Castoreum, Ambergris, Coumarin

 

At the fabulous Scented Supper in October, I learnt that before becoming an accomplished artisan perfumer, Mandy Aftel trained as a weaver. She continues to intuitively apply this skill when working with natural aromatics; intertwining them to create balance in terms of aroma, texture, weight and vibrancy. She has certainly done a masterful job of weaving together the various fragrant strands in her new release, Amber Tapestry.

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There are so many leaden ambers in this classic oriental category however Mandy breathes new life and light into the form.  Ambers don’t normally sing on my skin but this one does. I find lift and luminosity where I normally find flatness and opacity.

The smooth yellow mandarin in the opening of the EdP is simply gorgeous and just as Mandy tells us, it is the most floral of all the citruses. The amber accord is an enticing combination of fuzzy labdanum,  ambreine (a derivative of labdanum resinoid) and the salty tang of ambergris.

The amber accord is liberally embroidered with jasmine from start to finish and it’s the silkiest jasmine I’ve come across. It’s never screechy or uncomfortably indolic. The two varieties used here interlace wonderfully with the amber, adding floral interest, contrast and radiance.

The cinnamon is super soft and I only pick up slivers of the pear if I lean in close. Amber Tapestry also contains maltol and benzoin but I don’t find it too sweet or gourmand.

Coumarin and heliotropin give it a plush, powdery finish. The texture feels like the fur of a rust coloured cat or even dusty golden suede, thanks to the inclusion of castoreum. It stays fairly close to the body, wrapping itself around my skin. However, when you’re within its sphere, it’s enveloping. I’m struck time and again by how meticulously well blended Amber Tapestry is. It feels seamless.

There are no pointy edges; all is softness and comfort. However the ambergris and castoreum prevent it from being too safe. Amber lovers will need a pillow to cushion their fall as they swoon but non-amber fans, such as me, are likely to be taken with it as well because it is so lustrous and floral.

We all need some warmth, beauty and light to console us in these dark days of winter (not to mention these troubled times) and it’s just the thing to lift our spirits as we go into the festive season.

Memento Mori came to jangle our senses but Amber Tapestry has come to soothe them. It’s just what the doctor ordered. Using perfume to self-medicate is a regular practice of mine and this is the perfect remedy for what ails many of us right now.

 

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Does the idea of a floral amber appeal to you?

 

 

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In Rotation

After enduring bad news across the world for the best part of a year, I’ve been feeling the need to retreat. I’ve always been a homebody but I’m craving time indoors even more than usual. After reading a lot of “improving” books this year, I’ve now escaped into the His Dark Materials fantasy trilogy by Philip Pullman. On these cold, dark evenings, it’s wonderful to get lost in this multi-universe adventure populated by witches, armoured bears and fearless 12 year-olds .

 

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A small thing that I’ve found to be very soothing on trying days, is painting my nails. The colours I’m alternating at the moment are the sophisticated berry of Butter London’s Queen Vic and the glossy dark navy of Chanel’s Marinière.

Happily, I’m still getting a kick out of my new found love of bold lipstick. I’ve even graduated from red to purple. MAC’s Rebel feels perfect for autumn and easy to wear because it isn’t as intense or blue toned as most in that shade range. The satin formula is also kinder to the lips in this chilly weather than my usual matt lipsticks.

 

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Chanel Mariniere, MAC Rebel and Butter London Queen Vic

 

One comfort food that is also healthy is homemade soup. Last weekend I made spicy cauliflower soup based on the recipe by Alice Waters (who incidentally is a friend and neighbour of Mandy Aftel). I found out about it from former perfume blogger Lavanya, who now runs the brilliant subscription box service Boxwalla.

Again, taking pleasure in the little things, I’ve been enjoying the aromas of autumn; bonfires, dry leaves, damp earth, misty mornings. It might also be my favourite time of year for perfume. Here’s what I’ve been wearing a lot lately:

Passage d’Enfer, L’Artisan Parfumeur

I recently got a back-up bottle of this one because it’s my favourite incense. Passage d’Enfer is woody, lightly resinous and has a hint of waxy white lilies which it gives it luminosity. It smells fantastic on a scarf and mingles well with the autumnal wisps of smoke in the air. Passage d’Enfer helps me feel calm and centred in this crazy world but it also has that touch of wanton florals. I adore this stuff.

Coromandel EdT, Chanel

This is one classy patchouli with lots of warmth and depth. It’s not super earthy but it’s not a dull, super clean patch either. It’s beautifully sophisticated and I enjoy it most at a bit of distance, so I tend to spray it on my wrists rather than around my neck. I particularly enjoy the touch of incense that comes out most in the base.

Tobacco Rose, Papillon Perfumes

Of course I love roses and this one is perfect for autumn thanks to its earthiness. Tobacco Rose is a rose bush firmly planted in the soil, not a sterile, disembodied bloom. There’s a reason patchouli is paired so often with rose and it’s exemplified here in the way it grounds the beautiful, rich red flower. I can’t wait for the next release from Papillon Perfumes which is coming in the New Year.

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What’s bringing you comfort this season?

 

 

 

 

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