Tag Archives: Oriental

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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Spice World: The Meetup – Perfume Lovers London, 24th November

We were greeted by a spice themed soundtrack at the October Gallery last Thursday with tracks from Salt-N-Pepa and of course, The Spice Girls. Our fragrant leader Odette Toilette/Lizzie is nearing her due date so we were in the capable hands of Laurin and Callum. As you will see from the abbreviated sequence of events below, they also have a great way with words.

 

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Cardamom

Intoxicated, By Kilian

Laurin: Intoxicated is part of the Addictive State of Mind collection from By Kilian which features three fragrances based around a substance that can be addictive: coffee, tobacco and weed.

Callum: Intoxicated is supposed to evoke Turkish coffee and although that is usually teeth rottingly sweet, this has dark bitter spices. The green, bracing note of cardamom is particularly noticeable.

Laurin: I find it dry.

Audience Member: I get some lavender, similar to A*Men.

Callum: It’s a good example of a very strong cardamom note.

Audience Member: It’s getting sweeter with time.

 

Lumiére Blanche, Olfactive Studio

Callum: Each fragrance by Olfactive Studio is inspired by a photograph. Lumiére Blanche is the opposite of Intoxicated. Here the cardamom is in a setting which is really creamy and it’s much easier to wear.

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Audience Member: I’m picking up anise and mint.

Laurin: I think it’s like a milky drink at bedtime; like spicy Horlicks.

Callum: Does anyone think it’s like the photo? It has the bright white feel.

Audience Member: It reminds me of the sea.

Audience Member: It reminds me of Lovehearts. There’s something sherbet-y.

 

Ginger

Classique EdT, Jean Paul Gaultier

Laurin: I get lots of orange blossom and ylang ylang from Classique but once I found out there was was ginger in it, it became a lot more noticeable. When I smell it, I picture ginger root complete with its hairy bark.

Callum: I used to wear it a lot in my teens. Over time the shape of the bottle has changed. It now has a bigger derrière and smaller breasts – The Kim Kardashian Effect.

Laurin: I’d put it in the bombshell category along with Fracas.

Callum: It’s huge. Do we like it?

General murmurs of “No”.

Audience Member: It’s very dated.

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The Smell of Freedom, Gorilla Perfumes

Callum: This is a sunny ginger fragrance.

Laurin: I always think it’s like when you’re grating ginger and some of the juice runs down your hand.

Holly from LUSH: This is a triptych of a perfume. It’s a combination of three other perfumes about inspirational people, so it has a lot of notes.

Laurin: I get more lemongrass as it goes along.

Callum: It’s the opposite of Classique. It feels more stripped back.

Audience Member: It’s quite earthy.

Vanilla

Love, By Kilian

Callum: One of my favourite vanillas is the one by Mona di Orio but most are very sweet so I thought I should pick one which is representative of that. Love is pink, frilly knickers. It’s bright and sickly but amazing. It’s softened by orange blossom. It’s crazy sweet.

Laurin: I always think vanilla is too needy. You’d break up with it and it would still come round to your house and knock on the door. I like this one though because there’s something a bit scratchy about it.

Audience Member: It’s like raw cookie dough.

 

Black, Bvlgari

Laurin: This is one of my favourite fragrances of all time. It’s leather, petrol station forecourts and gimp masks. It’s a good example of an edgy fragrance that uses vanilla to make it more wearable. The perfumer is Annick Menardo and she’s very good at using vanilla in compositions such as this, Hypnotic Poison by Dior and Morn to Dusk by Eau d’Italie.

Black wouldn’t get past a focus group these days. It’s Resting Bitch Face in a bottle. It’d slit your throat if you rubbed it up the wrong way. I admire anyone who bought it when it first came out. People say it’s discontinued but you can still get it on Amazon. It also comes in this great bottle shaped like a tyre.

 

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Clove

Esprit du Tigre, Heeley

Callum: All Heeley’s fragrances are very bold in that they have a very clear idea. This is centred around the idea of Tiger Balm. It features a very pure use of clove; tarry, methylated and smoky.

Would you wear it?

Generally well liked and quite a few people would wear it except for those with memories of Tiger Balm.

 

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Jungle L’Elephant, Kenzo

Laurin: I tried this at Lizzie’s house recently and took the bottle home with me.  It’s a more rounded use of clove. It’s a Christmas pudding in a marshmallow. It has a lot of warmth. I picture a helix of clove and cardamom.  There’s a huge amount of plum and cedarwood in there too.

It was done by Dominique Ropion who is very good at doing huge perfumes which are very fine-tuned (Portrait of a Lady, Carnal Flower). Lizzie isn’t getting her bottle back.

 

Cumin

Hellstone, Gorilla Perfumes

Laurin: I read that cumin is associated with faithfulness. It can stop chickens and lovers from straying, apparently. Hellstone is rounded and has a little of that body sweat cumin but it’s also peaty and has a bit of whisky. I was thinking earlier it would be perfect for the Central Line at rush hour.

Holly from LUSH: A lot of men like to wear it in their beards.

Callum: I like it the more I wear it – the more the terror fades away.

Audience Member: It smells a bit like old books.

 

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Fareb, Huitième Art Collection

Callum: Fareb makes me think of the desert and cola. It’s dry but has a fizziness to it.

Laurin: It’s more foody. Customers at Les Senteurs used to stay they couldn’t wear it because it reminded them of their mother’s cooking.

Callum: It’s sweeter than Hellstone.

Audience Member: It’s brighter.

Callum: It’s doesn’t have the dark, peaty aspect of Hellstone.

This one was generally approved of by the room and preferred to Hellstone. Overall Fareb and Black seemed to be the hits of the evening.

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Do you like spicy fragrances? Which are your favourites?

 

 

 

 

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Miller Harris Mini Reviews

One of the stops on last month’s London perfume tour organised by Pia and Nick (of Love to Smell) was the Miller Harris store on Monmouth Street, Covent Garden.  Unfortunately I missed the talk but got a lovely bag of boxed samples. If you’d like to catch up on what went on that day, you can read all about it on Bonkers About PerfumeVolatile Fiction and I Scent You A Day. It was a great get-together of 20 or so perfume lovers/bloggers. Too bad I was feeling so poorly.

 

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Below are my mini-reviews of the five EdP samples we received –

Cassis en Feuille

Bergamot, galbanum, blackcurrant, geranium, tomato leaf, cedarwood

I always keep an eye out for perfumes showcasing blackcurrant because it’s a note I’m drawn to. However, they usually turn out to be sour and/or too green. Cassis en Feuille starts out very grassy, becoming a tangle of green stems accented with blackcurrant and then finally, a prominent blackcurrant scent with a green backdrop. Like a lot of the fragrances I’ve tried from this line, it doesn’t project very far. I still haven’t found my blackcurrant perfume.

Poirier d’un Soir

Bergamot, rum extract, rose, papyrus, birch tar oil, patchouli oil, white cedarwood

Why aren’t there more pear fragrances around, I wonder? “Pear Tree in the Evening” is a likeable honeyed pear scent. I’m not good with this level of sweetness but somehow I can deal with it better in the colder months. It manages to brighten up a dull autumnal day and fits the concept of sitting under a pear tree full of ripe fruit as the sun hangs low in the sky. It’s not a dupe by any means, but could be worth a try if you fell for the pear tart of La Belle Helene but couldn’t stomach MDCI prices.

La Pluie

Bergamot, tangerine, lavender, ylang ylang, cassis, jasmine, orange flower, vetiver , vanilla

The most surprising of  the five is La Pluie. Rather than being a straight-up aquatic, it’s a   tropical garden after a rain shower. It starts a little musty/powdery, slightly green and herbal. In the heart, it reveals a carpet of buttery ylang-ylang flowers interspersed with dewy jasmine.  The final twist is the soft ylang scented vanilla which comes through in the base. La Pluie stays subdued throughout its development and could be an easy, breezy choice for summer.

Tangerine Vert

Tangerine green, grapefruit, lemon, marjoram, geranium, orange flower, cedarwood, moss, sweet musk

No  surprises here. As advertised, we get a lovely tart, tangerine with green leaves in tact. For most of its development it’s a really great zingy citrus which isn’t too sour even though the notes include grapefruit and lemon. Tangerine Vert has the uplifting feeling of a bright spring day and tangerine/mandarin scents always seem to make me happy.  Sadly, the feel-good factor ends for me with the arrival of the base. The sweet muskiness is not to my taste however, if you like Kiehl’s Original Musk then you’ll probably be fine with it.

Fleur Oriental 

Bergamot, orange flower, spicy carnation, rose, heliotrope, vanilla bourbon, benzoin, amber, labdanum, musk

I have a soft spot for Fleur Oriental. It’s one of the first samples I got after falling down the rabbit hole. This was partly because I was interested in carnation perfumes at the time and partly because Katie Puckrik was a fan of it. Trying it again a number of years later, I still really admire it, despite the noticeable heliotrope. It has a silken powdery feel, the way an old-school carnation fragrance like Bellodgia might have had back in the day. This cloud of scented talcum powder is nicely spiked with citrus and orange flower, giving it a lift. The base even has a touch of the Shalimars about it. All in all, it makes for an easy to wear, floral oriental with somewhat of a retro feel and a pleasing mist of sillage.

 

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Do you like any of these or other fragrances by Miller Harris?

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Dirty Rose and Violet Chocolatier by PK Perfumes

The PK in PK Perfumes is Paul Kiler, an artisanal perfumer based in California. He places himself at the forefront of a new movement called Real Perfumery which purports to use the best materials available to create fragrances which comply to a “Standard of Excellence”.

Although Kiler uses both naturals and synthetics, his fragrance contain 20 to 50% essential oils, absolutes and resins.  The line currently contains 14 scents, the earliest of which were launched in 2012.

The first works I tried by Paul Kiler were the two perfumes he composed for Zoologist. It was fortuitous therefore that shortly afterwards, my pal Portia of Australian Perfume Junkies, kindly put the following two samples in her last package.

 

Dirty Rose

Notes: Bergamot, black spruce, laurel, cherrywood smoke, rose, nagarmotha, teak wood, tobacco, cedar, mahogany, earth, amber, costus, leather, vetiver bourbon,  Labdanum

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I love a messed-up, dark rose and Dirty Rose is firmly in that stable. It’s rooted in dark, moist earth and musky in the best way. It’s not the high-pitched musk that stabs you in the head but that deep throated unguent which intoxicates. The rose also smells like it was briefly set on fire; the flames having been beaten out but leaving a lingering charred scent.

The deep red flower that is at the heart of all this darkness is mostly hidden in the shadows. It has a definite kinship with my much-loved Rose de Nuit but the rose is much less prominent in Dirty Rose.  Here, the rose is coated in leather and musk and battened down by earthy patchouli and a canopy of spice. It has the feel of an oud fragrance without containing any agarwood.

I like my roses to be more rosy, but Dirty Rose may suit those fans of arid orientals who don’t like their rose front and centre. It is as far from the prim, feminine tea roses of yesteryear as you can get.

 

 

Violet Chocolatier

Notes: Violets, apricots, cocoa, nutmeg, hazelnut, magnolia, jasmine, rose, honey, gardenia, amber and benzoin.

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Ha! Violet Chocolatier – perhaps unsurprisingly – smells just like a violet cream; those chocolates with a violet fondant centre. It’s fun to experience and the chocolate is bittersweet so I don’t find it saccharine. As much as I have an aversion to sugary perfumes, I actually prefer these powdery, gourmand violets to those that highlight the flower’s green, metallic facets.

Somehow Violet Chocolatier segues effortlessly into a floral heart – most notably creamy white flowers – proving it’s not just a one-trick pony. This seamless transition exhibits Paul’s Kiler’s considerable perfumery skills.  The pale petals have a honeyed coating which feels dreamy and fits the decadent mood of the fragrance.  In the base it takes a final turn into cosy amber territory.

Violet Chocolatier is a clever composition and not you usual gourmand.

 

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The painting by Daria Jabenko which inspired Violet Chocolatier

 

Can you recommend any more fragrances from PK Perfumes?  I’d be particularly intrigued to hear from you if you’ve tried Zafran, Ere or Starry Starry Night. 

 

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Amouroud Mini Reviews

Perhaps now is the time to accept that oud isn’t just a passing trend in western perfumery but here to stay. New brand Amouroud has recently launched at Harrods with an initial collection of 6 fragrances. The people behind it are Perfumer’s Workshop, whose most well known scent is the 70s classic, Tea Rose.

Oud features in the note lists for all of the fragrances but only Oud du Jour is overtly oud-y . Agarwood seems to add a degree of oriental smoothness to the other five. At £145 for 100ml of Eau de Parfum they’re pretty fairly priced for luxury niche fragrances containing oud, whether natural or synthetic.

 

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Midnight Rose

Top notes are litchi, pomelo and mate; middle notes are lily, red rose and iris; base notes are amber, labdanum and agarwood (oud).

Midnight Rose isn’t anywhere near as dark as the name suggests. It’s actually a sweet and bright fruity rose with a lot of depth. The effervescent lychee opening passes but the fruitiness lingers through the lavish amber drydown. I prefer rose perfumes that have gone over to the dark side like Rose de Nuit or that are retro like Fille de Berlin, but Midnight Rose is very full-bodied which makes it a satisfying wear.

 

Safran Rare

Top notes are freesia, bergamot, incense and geranium; middle notes are cedar, saffron, rose de mai and jasmine; base notes are benzoin, agarwood (oud), vetiver, sandalwood and vanilla.

Safran Rare folds saffron up in almost plasticky leather and it’s an arresting combination. It smells wonderfully sleek and expensive; the height of modern luxury. I appreciate the fact that it’s savoury rather than sweet, although the saffron goes a little sour on me after a while. I find it sexy in a rather strict, leather-clad kind of way.  It’s quite compelling and the one I’ve enjoyed wearing the most.

 

Santal des Indes

Top notes are absinthe and incense; middle notes are curry tree, narcissus, Turkish rose and Chinese cedar; base notes are sandalwood, leather, musk and vetiver.

Aaah, this smells like sandalwood perfumes should smell; creamy to an almost coconutty extent.   The pale, lactonic sandalwood effect lasts for hours and it has great projection without feeling overwhelming. I’m not generally a fan of orientals but I think Santal des Indes will be the stand-out from the collection for many.

 

Dark Orchid

Top notes are mandarin orange, citruses, black gardenia and Sicilian bergamot; middle notes are jasmine, ylang-ylang, lotus and black orchid; base notes are sandalwood, Indonesian patchouli leaf, incense and vanilla.

Dark Orchid has a super strange opening which smells to me like a mixture of caramel and cough drops, undercut by citrus.  It mellows out somewhat as the gardenia  comes through and starts to remind me more of Black Orchid Voile de Fleur than the Tom Ford original. It’s a very distinctive, syrupy gourmand floral so a little goes a long way. Dark Orchid is quite the dramatic attention-seeker. A fragrance for nights out when you want to leave a lasting impression.

 

Oud du Jour

Top notes are pink pepper, raspberry and saffron; middle notes are incense, rose, lily-of-the-valley and dried plum; base notes are agarwood (oud), black amber, patchouli and guaiac wood.

The amusingly titled Oud du Jour showcases oud front and centre, although it’s liberally accented with berry fruitiness. This surprising combination of playful fruit with deeply resinous oud actually works. It is very plush and has that “One Thousand And One Nights” vibe, as ouds tend to, but it’s not overly-spiced. The addition of sweet red fruit means Oud du Jour melds Middle East with West and for this reason it would make a good beginner’s oud. It has amazing longevity and sillage.

 

Miel Sauvage

Top notes are bergamot, honey and red pepper; middle notes are agarwood (oud), jasmine and sandalwood; base notes are patchouli, tonka bean and incense.

The name “Wild Honey” made me rather nervous, but I needn’t have been worried. This doesn’t have the urinous skank of some honey perfumes. To start with, we get a floral honey scent made up of a slightly soapy jasmine paired with clean honey.  It’s rather on the sweet side for my tastes but completely wearable. The jasmine recedes as Miel Sauvage develops, leaving a  base of very gentle honey on a velvety oriental base.

 

 

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Do you think oud is now a fragrance category in its own right?

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In Rotation

Spring has sprung in the UK and so the perfumes I have in heavy rotation at the moment reflect this. I use the season as the first criteria for narrowing down my daily fragrance selection, followed by mood. So of the several scents I feel appropriate for this time of year, here are the ones that are currently getting the most wear and why.

Vol de Nuit EdT (vintage) by Guerlain

Notes: Bergamot, Galbanum, Petitgrain, Jasmine, Jonquil, Violet, Carnation, Rose, Spices, Woods, Iris, Vanilla, Sandalwood and Amber.

I think it’s the large amount of Guerlainade that does it – Vol de Nuit just makes me feel so grounded. If I’m feeling stressed during springtime, I always turn to this enigmatic chypre oriental: it soothes me. The vernal scents of green leaves and delicate flowers are weighed down in the rich earth, dark woods and emerald moss.

I have a 93ml refillable cannister which is three-quarter full, but I still feel uneasy as I watch the level drop. Vol de Nuit is the fragrance that I feel most at home in.

Champaca EdP by Ormonde Jayne

Notes: Neroli, Pink Pepper and Bamboo,  Champaca Absolute, Freesia Absolute and Basmati notes: Myrrh, Green Tea and Musk

I wear green-tinged fragrances in March/April to echo the resurgence of nature. Most greens have a bitter edge but this pale green floral is nothing but fresh, breezy and easy to wear. It reminds me of the striking rice terraces of Bali, the most breath-taking place I’ve ever visited. This is probably because of the bamboo and Basmati rice accords.

For me, Champaca is a relaxing, beautiful, feel-good perfume that transports me to much more scenic climes. It’s filled with light, air and lush vegetation.

Diorella Edt (vintage) by Dior

Notes: Sicilian Lemon, Basil, Honeysuckle, Peach, Vetiver and Oakmoss

Diorella has such a fruity zing it mirrors the bright new mornings after the clocks go forward. When I first spray it after the winter, I’m reminded of just how much I enjoy this early love of mine. It always feel right, whenever, wherever.

The zesty citrus, gentle florals and fresh herbs make it uplifting while the mossy base gives it an air of easy-going elegance. It’s a killer combination.

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My bottles of Diorella, Vol de Nuit and Champaca

Which fragrances do you have in rotation right now?

 

 

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