For Valentine’s Day this year, I ordered my husband Vétiver Fatal from Atelier Cologne. It’s quite interesting – I had initially received a sample of Vétiver Fatal and Rose Anonyme when the duo first came out, thanks to a draw from Ca Fleure Bon. On first try, I had thought neither scent was much to write home about, especially in comparison with the original five perfumes from the house. (Incidentally, those original five Atelier Colognes were the first samples I ever ordered from LuckyScent.) A few months ago, my husband wanted to try something new and asked if I had any samples that might work for him. (Introducing my husband to my perfume hobby has been one of the great surprises and pleasures of the last two years.) So I rummaged through my sample bin and saw Vétiver Fatal, thought, hmm, this might be good on a man, and surrendered it over to his possession.
Well, I was quite surprised when I spent the rest of that evening huffing the poor man’s chest. While I believe all perfume can be unisex, there are definitely perfumes that I think smell better or more appropriate on my husband than on me… Apparently Vétiver Fatal is one of those. Reading the notes of Vétiver Fatal really perplexes me, because it doesn’t smell at all how I might imagine based on the note list. The Atelier Cologne website lists the notes as: bergamot from Calabria, lemon from Sicily, heart of bigaradier from Paraguay, orange flower absolue from Tunisia, violet leaves from Grasse, fig, heart of vetiver from Haiti, cedarwood from Texas, and dark oud accord. I feel like I’m missing half the notes in this. I basically get: bitter orange, vetiver, and a dark woodsy smell that verges on mineral which I assume is the “oud.” Maybe I get the violet leaves too. I don’t know. On my husband, I think it smells really divine… sort of sultry and mysterious and dark, without feeling dirty. Vetiver and oud are obviously notes that can feel very grungey if used in certain ways, and both notes here are very cleaned up. What really attracts me to the scent is the way the vetiver kind of shimmers over the mineral facets of the oud… I would describe this perfume as dark-clean. I don’t know if that makes a hill of beans sense, but there you have it.
I ended up ordering a bottle of Vétiver Fatal for my husband for Valentine’s Day. But of course our incompetent postal carrier lost the package. (According to our apartment manager, the new carrier has been delivering lots of packages to the wrong complexes… I have some words for USPS these days. I used to love the postal service. I don’t know if it’s the specific carriers I’ve encountered in Austin the last few years, or if what I’ve experienced here is just a sign of the larger issues USPS is having, but… they are really incompetent here. I mean, in contrast, my parents, on the farm, have had the same postal carrier since we moved there in 1990, and he shows up like clockwork.)
Well, I want to give credit where credit is due: I called Atelier Cologne’s NYC boutique (I ordered direct from their website) and they were kind enough to ship me another package. Ross was even nice enough to 1) send it UPS 2) upgrade the two mini samples I’d also ordered to 7.5 mL vials and 3) throw in EVEN MORE samples to boot. So yeah, call Ross and make your Atelier Cologne orders!
The two samples I’d ordered were for the two new scents from the house I hadn’t tried: Ambre Nue and Mistral Patchouli. (OK, I haven’t tried Sous le Toit de Paris yet either, and I’m dying to. But it’s so new that when I originally placed this order online, you couldn’t yet order samples of that one.) So now I have big-honking samples of Ambre and Patchouli. I decided to try Ambre Nue tonight, because I was thinking about amber.
In this weekend’s NST open thread, the commenter Lys asked if there was anyone else out there who dislikes amber in perfumery. I immediately responded with a resounding yes. Amber seems to be beloved among perfumistas, but it not an accord I love. I don’t mind sweetness in perfume – not if it’s via fruit or florals, anyway – but I often find amber sweet, cloying, and suffocating. I can think of only one amber perfume that I really, truly adore: Tauer Perfumes Orange Star. And I’m not sure that’s exactly amber in the traditional way. And I’ll also give some nostalgia points to the mimosa-amber-gourmand YSL Cinema, which I bought in my pre-perfumista days. That one now verges on too sweet for my taste in the later stages. But a lot, maybe most, amber-centric perfumes I just think are icky, sticky, sweet, and forgettable. So I don’t know why I even bothered to order a sample of Ambre Nue. Yet, I’m wearing it today for the first time and really loving it. It starts spicy and then I smell a really nice mandarin note – reminiscent, I think of Orange Star. It smells for all the world like holiday citrus – not exactly pomanders, because I don’t get full-on clove, but sweet, reduced orange juice with cinnamon and spices. There’s some spicy florals in there too – the notes list says tagetes and orchid, and I could buy that. Anyway, the sweet spicy citrus lingers into the drydown, which, honestly, I don’t find overly ambery. At least, it’s not in that choking amber way that I can’t stand.
To be honest, though, the similarities between this and Orange Star are striking. Let’s take Orange Star and make the following tweaks: replace the orange blossom with marigold. Replace the incense with cinnamon. Remove the lemongrass. Lighten the sillage up by about tenfold, and make the whole thing feel somehow sheer and more natural. That’s Ambre Nue. It feels like the cologne version of Orange Star. That sounds like I feel Ambre Nue isn’t essential, but I’d like to have both, to wear at different times and in different places. I could wear Ambre Nue at the peak of Austin summer; I’m not sure I could say the same of Orange Star, much though I love it. I will say that Orange Star makes me think more: it sits on the border between industrial-strength synthetic orange cleaner and painfully real mandarin, and makes me think about and question what I’m smelling, what is “natural” and what is “fake.” Ambre Nue is just really, really, nice. I don’t know that even those of us who love Orange Star would call it “nice.” Nonetheless, I’m really surprised, maybe flabbergasted by how much I am enjoying Ambre Nue. I wonder what true amber-lovers would have to say about it, though. How ambery is it, really? Am I liking it because it’s less ambery that its name would suggest?
One final note. Today after my shower I slathered on something that would probably horrify most perfumistas, so of course I’ve got to share it with you. Wait for it… Wait for it.
Bath and Body Works Rain Kissed Leaves lotion.
I’ve reviewed Bath and Body Works stuff on this blog before. I’ll make no bones about my appreciation for this company. Right now, their current offerings are pretty lousy – I haven’t really loved anything they’ve launched in quite some time. They’ve been launching berry gourmand after berry gourmand, and in the meantime discontinuing all of their scents I used to love. The only really safe bets in their store right now would probably be Moonlight Path, something from the Aromatherapy line, or a candle. (America apparently only wants sickeningly-sweet-fake-fruit body lotion, but will put up with nice-smelling candles. Go figure.) Anyway, I have a dark perfumista secret: I don’t like amber that much, but I do occasionally like aquatic and ozonic fragrances. I know, I know. You maybe should stop here.
Well, so Bath and Body Works has discontinued pretty much all of their aquatic fragrances in the last few years. Gone are Dancing Waters, Cotton Blossom, Rain Kissed Leaves, and even, can you believe it, the old workhouse Cucumber and Cantaloupe. (Most of these can still be purchased on the company’s website though.) The only one left standing in stores is Sea Island Cotton, which I think is fairly icky. A couple of years ago they launched a new aquatic, Deep Aqua, and promptly discontinued it only a month or two later. Anyway, I guess it shows that aquatics are pulling a much smaller share of the US women’s fragrance market these days.
In truth, I don’t like many aquatics but there are a select few that I like, particularly as shower gels and lotions. And Rain Kissed Leaves is one of those. It smells like water and leaves, with a vague floralcy. I just went to the Bath and Body Works and it lists the notes as “Crisp Watercress, Lush Muguet, Transparent Woods, Fresh Raindrops.” Honestly, BBW notelists should probably be taken with a grain of salt, but this list makes sense. You’ve got the leaves, water, the muguet for the flowers (I wouldn’t have guessed muguet but we’ll go with it). I’m not really sure about the woods part but whatever. Three out of four ain’t bad. Anyway I find Rain Kissed Leaves exhilarating and refreshing. I love it in Austin’s July and August, when I struggle with many of my regular perfumes. I don’t think I would ever buy the eau de toilette; in fact, that idea seems almost repellent, but I’m really glad to have the lotion and shower gel.
Now get ready for the gross part: I think Ambre Nue smells ridiculously great over Rain Kissed Leaves. Don’t even ask. I know. I can’t explain.