Jean Patou Joy Forever (with a Dior Grand Bal aside)

Jean Patou has always seemed like a brand that I should by rights adore, but don’t. The history, the BIG florals, etc. etc. Everything about the brand seems like “my thing.” Granted, I must confess that I haven’t spent a ton of time with their fragrances on skin – in part because smelling them on card doesn’t induce me to spray it on my skin. I’ve failed to enjoy Joy. Even though I love jasmine, Joy always just seemed sort of stuffy to me, at least in the near-recent iteration (the only I’ve smelled – I think it’s been reformulated again in the last year, since the last time I tried it), and 1000 struck me as really atrocious the one time I encountered it (so bad, in fact, that I wonder if the tester had spoiler under display lights).

Anyway, I love the IDEA of Jean Patou, and if I attempted at all to collect vintage perfume, I think it’s a house I’d explore. When I read about the release of a Joy flanker, Joy Forever, I thought, hmmm. Over the last year, I’ve discovered an increasing obsession with jasmine. Joy Forever seemed like possibly Just the Ticket. Now Smell This ran a draw for a 50mL bottle, and lo and behold… I won!

To be honest, I was hoping to find in Joy Forever something like Dior Grand Bal. I haven’t written about Grand Bal here, but I got a decant in a swap sometime late last spring and I’ve been obsessed with it ever since. Grand Bal has in my mind only two drawbacks: 1. insufficient lasting power 2. an astronomical price tag. (EDIT: In the comments, Undina points out that the per-mL price of Grand Bal is actually lower than that of Joy Forever. It’s true! I’m not sure I realized that before. Still, buying 125 mLs of Grand Bal, the smallest size Dior offers, is a bit different than buying 30mLs of Joy Forever, the smallest size Patou offers. And I got my Joy Forever for free. However… perhaps Undina is talking me into buying Grand Bal!) I’ve been hoping to find some kind of ‘budget Grand Bal’ and as yet I haven’t found it. Perhaps it was unfair to approach Joy Forever from this angle – but I didn’t need Joy Forever to be Grand Bal. I just needed a superb little innocent (but REAL-smelling!) jasmine perfume.

Joy Forever starts with a blast of extremely clean citrus and green notes… I detect early on a green-smelling rose note that I feel is everywhere in contemporary perfumery, to the point of being tiresome… I pick up orange blossom as well. The overall effect is extremely clean, but quite pretty through the early stages. So you’ve got these soapy-clean greenish florals, well-blended. The first 30 minutes or so of Joy Forever are really quite nice… you almost think the florals are going to get dirty, as the jasmine asserts itself more, with a whisper of iris mucking things up… and then it’s white musk. The florals disappear and I’m left with a soapy memory.

Honestly, Grand Bal wears much this way on me, too, with the fade from modern floral! to disappearing MUSK, but the jasmine in Grand Bal, while still clean and not the remotely the indolic explosion of Mama Joy, seems richer and warmer. Joy Forever is definitely something I think I’ll continue to pull out, particularly during the sweltering Austin summer (it’s such a breezy fragrance!), but it doesn’t quite capture the “ultimate modern jasmine” prize I hoped it might.

Here’s hoping that unlike Joy Forever, the new reissue collection from Patou does blow my mind. Anyone want to send me a bottle of Chaldée?? :)

5 quick impressions of lesser-known Thierry Muglers

I have an appreciation for Thierry Mugler, but I often find I like house’s flankers better than its flagship perfumes. See: last winter’s leather flankers. I’m just waiting for the day those leather flankers show up at the discounters, and I’ll probably get both the Angel and the Alien at that point. Over the winter, I got samples of a few lesser-known Muglers that seemed intriguing, and I’ve been enjoying them since.

Angel Garden of Stars Peony: The Garden of Stars collection was a set of three initial flankers that took Angel and gave it a floral cast. Later, a fourth (Rose Angel) was added. As far as I can tell, the Garden of Stars is long-discontinued, at least here in the US. Since I’m a floral fan who appreciates but doesn’t really want to wear original Angel, I figured these might be good bets for me. Peony is probably my least favorite of the set. Three of the four Garden of Stars have, to my nose, a green-stemmy aspect, and it’s most pronounced in Peony. Other than that, Peony smells fairly spicy-rosy to my nose. As you might expect with an Angel flanker, the patchouli predominates on the drydown. Indeed, all of the Garden of Stars smell pretty recognizably Angel-ish on the drydown.  This one was done by Olivier Cresp, creator of the original Angel.

Angel Garden of Stars Rose: Rose is the Garden of Stars perfume I’d heard the most about and seemed to be the most beloved among perfumistas. I’d see it mentioned here and there in blog comments, although I don’t really think I’ve ever read a full-on review of it. I honestly find Rose quite similar to Peony… and I’ve now seen that Olivier Cresp is also credited with Rose, so there you go. It’s a rose over patchouli with fruit, with some of the greenness of Peony at the start, although not nearly as much. It’s maybe less spicy than Peony. I’m wondering if the reason I’m less enamored of Peony and Rose than the other two Garden of Stars is that the rose + patchouli combination is done so much in perfumery.

Angel Garden of Stars Violet: Violet was done by Francoise Caron… Violet also has a greenness to it, but it’s more that of violet leaves. There’s also candied violets. While original Angel has an over-the-top candy floss note, here the delicate candied violets stand in for cotton candy. It seems more sophisticated and “French” somehow. And then patchouli. Violet + patchouli doesn’t strike me as a common combination. I really, really enjoy this one.

Angel Garden of Stars Lily: This is far and away my favorite of the Garden of Stars. Just before writing this review, I found that Lily was done by Christine Nagel, which makes sense because I’m generally a fan of her work. In this perfume, the initial greenness of the other Garden of Stars is not as present. I smell spicy lily and what I would swear is honey. I have recently been trying Donna Karan Gold, which has so many fans, and I’m trying to love it. I don’t think I do. Garden of Stars Lily is a modern lily perfumer that’s more to my taste. Its lily aspect is much less intense than Gold’s, to be sure, but I far prefer its honey-patchouli drydown to Gold’s amber. I’ve put Garden of Stars Lily on my buy list, and there’s a bottle in my shopping bag at one of the big discounters… I probably won’t cave and buy it quite yet, though. But how much longer will I even  be able to find it?

Dis-Moi, Miroir: The Miroir, Miroir collection is (I think??) Thierry Mugler’s version of an exclusive collection. I don’t know how widely distributed it is. I’ve never seen it in person but I think it’s still for sale somewhere – they’ve added perfumes to the set in the last few years. A few months ago, when Perfume Posse started their single note series, and inspired by my love/hate of Seville a l’Aube (which has now pretty much given over to love), I ordered a bunch of Patty’s recommended orange blossom perfumes. This was among them. It’s actually not just orange blossom. It’s a mix of orange blossom and lily. It’s a really interesting heady-yet-clean floral perfume. The flowers are big and blooming, and not particularly sweet, but it also doesn’t smell like it would scare perfume haters off. There are supposed to be “milky notes” and while I don’t smell anything that overtly reads as “milk,” there’s sort of creamy lactonic aspect that blends the florals together really strongly, so I can barely tell where one ends and the other begins. I really want to like this and it strikes me that I’m almost on the verge of liking this. I sort of wish it were dirtier. It seems like an a pretty well-behaved perfume for the house of Mugler. Maybe that’s the shtick of the Miroir, Miroir collection? I haven’t tried any of the others. I’d like to get to them.

Oscar de la Renta Essential Luxuries Mi Corazon + By Kilian Beyond Love

If you like By Kilian Beyond Love, you’ll love Oscar de la Renta Essential Luxuries Mi Corazon.

No. Seriously, you will. Most likely.

I have an affinity for the Oscar de la Renta brand, and when they announced an exclusive collection, I didn’t know whether to cheer or roll my eyes. It seems like every brand is following Chanel’s lead and launching super-limited, super-expensive perfumes that are limited to their boutiques and maybe the biggest, fanciest department stores in the biggest cities. If exclusive collections always meant high-quality perfume, that would be awesome… but clearly, a lot of these brands are copying Chanel on price point and packaging more than anything else. (I mean, seriously, even Dior, a house with arguably a fragrance history equally storied as Chanel’s, basically ripped off the Les Exclusives packaging.)

Anyway, I guess I was more inclined to roll my eyes at Oscar’s exclusive collection, especially given its cheesy and oxymoronic name – Essential Luxuries? ugh. I held out hope though, because the perfumer was Calice Becker and I appreciate her work quite a bit. I tried to ask around about the perfumes, and got very little feedback – someone on Facebook Fragrance Friends said they were fabulous, someone in the NST comments said they were horrid… I figured I’d have to try for myself. So, Perfume Posse has been doing this perfume-fairy-godmother post monthly, and I asked for samples of any of the Essential Luxuries. I ended up with two Essential Luxuries, plus quite a few other goodies, in my fairy godmother package in February. I really like both of the Essential Luxuries, in fact, I pretty much adore Mi Corazon. But…

Mi Corazon is a tuberose-centric perfume by Calice Becker. Much like By Kilian’s Beyond Love. Luca Turin famously, and controversially, called Beyond Love the best-ever tuberose soliflore in Perfumes: The A-Z Guide. Well. Mi Corazon is very, very, very much like Beyond Love. The tuberose note is quite similar. Mi Corazon substitutes the coconut of Beyond Love for peach. Mi Corazon has a hit of ylang-ylang that I’m not sure is present in Beyond Love. Beyond Love, to my nose at least, is sweeter, more tropical, and on the drydown has a musky/warm skin scent effect. Mi Corazon, while sweet and still vaguely tropical, is not as sweet as Beyond Love, and the base notes seem quite different… not as beachy or as musky. Perhaps greener, more earthy? I’m having trouble naming these notes. I don’t think the lasting power of Mi Corazon is quite as good as that of Beyond Love, but it projects really well at the beginning – people noticed this one on me and I got compliments.

To be honest, while I really like Beyond Love, I may like Mi Corazon better. The tuberose note seems equally nice (well, pretty much the same) as in Beyond Love, but the whole thing seems somewhat drier and more glamorous, more bombshell. I really do appreciate Beyond Love, but the high pricepoint and tropical sweetness probably prevented me from adding it to my buy list – I already have a number of tropical florals in my collection. People who loved Beyond Love for its tropical, musky, easy-to-wear aspects might not like Mi Corazon as much, but if you like Calice Becker’s style, I think you should really check out Mi Corazon and the rest of the Essential Luxuries Collection. The other I’ve tried is Oriental Lace, which is a sweet fruity oriental very much in the Calice Becker style. I think I probably prefer Oriental Lace to any of her sweet orientals for By Kilian. In fact, as I think about it now, Oriental Lace is what I wished the Garden of Evil collection would have smelled like. So. Yeah. So far, the Essential Luxuries are pretty much rocking my world. Mi Corazon is on my wishlist.

One more note. Oscar de la Renta Essential Luxuries Mi Corazon is $150 for 100 mL. So not quite cheap. But. By Kilian Beyond Love is $235 for 50mL at LuckyScent. Yes, you’re paying somewhat for that fancy black bottle, and you can get the By Kilian refills much cheaper, but still… If you like Beyond Love but balked on the price or sweetness, try Mi Corazon.

Maître Parfumeur et Gantier Tubéreuse

Today I’m going to write about a fragrance that is one of the most treasured in my collection, but I’ve seen very little written about online. In fact, this fragrance is part of a line that seems to be largely under the perfume blog radar. Maître Parfumeur et Gantier is a line I have a great deal of affection for, and while the brand does seem to have drawn more attention lately, particularly with the release of Cuir Fétiche in 2011, I feel their perfumes deserve more love.

At the same time, I sort of get why they may not. Maître Parfumeur et Gantier is a very serviceable perfume line… It’s not as flashy as many of the niche brands vying for our attention these days, and there’s not a single perfumer figure to draw us into a storyline about the brand. In many respects, MPG is nigh well traditional, as you might expect for a line that takes its inspiration from early modern Parisian perfumed-glovemakers.  So there’s this traditional French-perfumery influence, but there’s also something of the semi-granola vibe of early L’Artisan Parfumeur (keep in mind Jean Laporte founded MPG after leaving L’Artisan, a brand which he also founded) and something of the perfunctory luxury house feel of By Kilian. Like By Kilian and many other lines, MPG ticks all the note boxes. They have their amber. They have their vetiver. They have their jasmine. They have their white floral bouquet. They have their iris. They have their tuberose…

OK, so what I just wrote sounds like I’m undercutting MPG myself. Not so. I think it’s a great line. I think the juices generally smell fabulous and while the bottles aren’t completely to my taste, one thing I’ll say about this line is that it really feels like the money has gone into the juice and not the marketing and bottles.

The reason I’ve had the opportunity to try the MPG line is that there’s a small perfume shop in downtown Austin that carries a good portion of the line. The place is called Enchanté. Going to Enchanté is… interesting. The store is sort of split between fragrance and shaving products; indeed, the shop proprietor has created his own shaving method, which is richly documented on his website. I highly recommend perusing “A Short History of Method Shaving,” available for download on Enchanté’s website to get a sense of the uniqueness of Enchanté.

Anyway, Charles Roberts, the owner of Enchanté, has great affection for Maître Parfumeur et Gantier. I don’t know if I was just being suggestible, but on the visit on which I bought Tubéreuse, the perfume I’m writing about today, I found myself strongly attracted to the Maître Parfumeur et Gantier line as a whole.

But Tubéreuse was the one I came home with.

When I was prepping for this review, I read a bunch of other reviews of Tubéreuse online. I know that some don’t consider that good form… for me it seems necessary to read what others think as I attempt to make sense of a perfume and convey it into words. But I didn’t find much. Most of the reviews are older. There’s a sentence here from Robin. A few from Victoria. Another from Abigail.  Honestly, though, the one that comes closest in my mind is from user Emily7 on Fragrantica. Well, maybe she’s just saying the same things that Robin and Victoria and Abigail were, but in a way that resonates with me.

The beginning is green, maybe a bit sharp, and probably the hardest part of the perfume. I don’t know if it’s parsley-like, as Emily7 suggests, but maybe. Slightly herbal for sure. As it dries, the tuberose is green and full and slightly buttery; the buttery aspect is attenuated, which I like: it’s buttery enough to feel like real tuberose, but not so buttery as to be stifling.   As it progresses I definitely detect green jasmine, amber, and musk: the drydown is kind of a powdery-ambery thing. The green tuberose is there nearly top to bottom. Overall, it’s lush-lush-lush and the greenest tuberose perfume I know.

The wear time on Tubéreuse might be my only complaint. I get maybe four hours from this one, which isn’t long on my skin. On the other hand, I have a full bottle and I can reapply. And I do.

The thing I love about Tubéreuse is how versatile it is. I can wear it on a 100-degree-plus Austin day (and in fact often do, it’s one of my summer favorites). I can wear it in the winter for a quick tropical fantasia. I can wear it to work and not feel like I’m going to be oppressing others (OK, I normally don’t worry so much about this, but still).

When I was first starting to think about writing this review, I thought I’d try to test some perfumes that I find similar to this one. I thought it was a lot like By Kilian’s Beyond Love, but last weekend I retested Beyond Love and it’s MUCH sweeter, more coconutty, more buttery, and frankly less up my alley, although still stunningly well-done. I don’t have any Fracas sitting around to test, but going from memory it vaguely reminds me of Fracas too. Don’t get me wrong: Tubéreuse doesn’t really smell “like” Fracas. But if I had a chance to modernize Fracas, it might be something more like Tubéreuse and less like Madonna’s Truth or Dare: rather than adding caramel sugar, I’d amp up the greenness, add a bit of jasmine, make the drydown enveloping and a bit soapy.

Tubéreuse was a milestone perfume for me: I had read about Enchanté at the Basenotes forums and made a special trip to sniff their wares. Tubéreuse was the first niche perfume in my collection, and I think it still might be the single most expensive bottle I’ve purchased (you see that I don’t spend as much on perfumes as you might think!). I’d venture it’s one of my most frequently-worn perfumes, though I don’t keep running stats. But basically… Tubéreuse was the point of no return. Once you’ve spent $160 on a niche perfume and spent two hours talking perfume, gender roles, and libertarian economics with a shop owner in the process, you know you’re down the perfume rabbit hole permanently.

Decennial Lys du Désert

One of the most unexpected releases for this fall, for me, was Andy Tauer’s surprise entry for the Decennial line, a capsule collection of perfume released in honor of go-to perfume retailer Luckyscent’s tenth anniversary in business. As anyone who has read this blog probably realizes, I avidly follow Andy Tauer’s perfumery creations. I knew that this fall was bringing the launch of Loretta, a fragrance Andy designed for the Tableau de Parfums line, and which I’d sampled early, but I had been thinking that it was probably his only launch of 2012. (Compare this with 2011, in which he released at least five perfumes: Zeta, Pentachord Auburn, Pentachord White, and Pentachord Verdant in his own line, and Miriam for Tableau de Parfums.) So when I saw someone tweet about Lys du Désert one morning, I was taken with surprise and immediately went to LuckyScent and ordered a sample.

The fragrance is inspired by the natural panoramas of  Joshua Tree National Park, which Andy wrote eloquently about in a recent blog post. I was captivated by the scent description at LuckyScent:

In its opening, a hot desert wind sweeps through Lys du Désert, carrying with it an oasis of green freshness. But freshness is only hinted at. Bone-dry ambery woods, reinforced by powdery iris root, envelop these notes, suggesting the magical combination of flowers and desert. The dry woody amber that leads the fragrance reminds you where the desert lily blooms: among Creosote bushes and isolated pines in the wonderland of rocks further up the hills. As it dries down, Lys du Désert becomes an interplay between sweet florals, warm amber, and dry woods. Remarkable and stunning.

From the copy, it seemed that this scent could perhaps serve as a “bridge” between two supposed sides of Andy Tauer. Andy’s early fragrances were often spicy, incensey, and oriental, and he gained a huge following for these scents, in particular L’Air du Désert Marocain, which by many is perceived to be the “signature” Tauer scent, but which I haven’t even tried. (!!!.  I know.) More recently, Andy has released floral scents that lack, or perhaps just have less of, the ambery-incensey “Tauerade” base that characterizes his earlier perfumes. (For the record, I have mixed feelings about many of the blogosphere’s assertions about “Tauerade,” but at the same time, I can see the basis for people claiming “Tauerade” exists.) My immediate thought was: what if Lys du Désert takes my beloved, hyperpigmented lily note from Carillon Pour un Ange and merges it with ambery oriental dryness? The idea was fascinating to me. I also wondered how the many avid fans of L’Air du Désert Marocain might react to the scent.

I’ve worn Lys du Désert twice now and it’s lovely. It does open with a lily note quite reminiscent of Carillon, but it’s a bit more staid and less green.  After the lily, I get mineral notes and a vague smokiness – nowhere near the level of Lonestar Memories smokiness, but a twinge of creosote. The mineral/desert plant aspect is one of my favorite stages of the fragrance. The drydown, on me, is equal parts sweetish amber and dry iris – extremely well-blended so I forget where one ends and the other begins. Moments of amber-iris drydown recall a less alien, more earthy, version of the drydown of Pentachord White. The overall impression of  Lys du Désert is calming mineral dryness with a touch of amber sweetness and florals. The most surprising aspect of Lys is its serenity: I would argue that this is one of the closest things to a skin scent that Andy’s done.  It just kind of seeps in. I imagine scores of people are going to fall for this – like it’s the golden mean of Tauerdom.

How do I feel about the scent? I really like it. I don’t care for Hermès Eau des Merveilles and its various flankers at all, but if I imagine how I’d like those scents to smell, based on the note descriptions, and how I might tweak them to turn them into something I’d like, you might come out pretty close to Lys du Désert.  But, you know? I’m a Carillon partisan. I love that crazy everlasting green lily that will take no prisoners and does not go gentle into the night. I crave the alien iris weirdness of Pentachord White above the calm landscape Andy paints in Lys. I like visiting the desert, but I’ll always move back to my psychedelic garden.

L’Artisan Parfumeur Seville a l’Aube

L’Artisan Parfumeur Seville a l’Aube has certainly been making the rounds of the blogosphere this summer and fall. I feel that I barely need to explain the backstory of the perfume, because certainly nearly everyone who’s reading this blog already knows it. In short, Denyse Beaulieu, a noted perfume blogger, worked with the ultra-prolific perfumer Betrand Duchaufour to create Seville a l’Aube, which attempts to recreate the smell of a beautiful night in Beaulieu’s life. Denyse is one of the “old school” perfume bloggers – she knows everyone – so of course, everyone was going to try her fragrance. Given Beaulieu’s influence, knowing what to make of the reviews was difficult, as I figured that most reviewers would be fairly laudatory, while those who didn’t care for Seville would be silent. (To some degree, I have begun to assume this in general, but it’s especially the case with Seville.) I also admit that this phenomenon made me very curious to try the perfume for myself and to evaluate it on its own merits, moreso than with most “crazes” that sweep the blogosphere. Even given that I’ve had mixed results with Duchaufour’s creations in the past, I still felt compelled to try it. So try it, I did. I was able to get 2 mLs in a swap on NST, and have spent a lot of time with Seville right away – I must have worn it five or six times over the last two weeks, which is pretty excessive for me. Wearing this perfume has made me think a lot – about differences in how we perceive scent, about aesthetics, and about the perfume-blog echo chamber. I don’t know if I have anything coherent to say about these topics yet, just that it’s difficult to parse how you feel about something when everyone else has already written about it, when the co-creator is a powerful person in the perfume blogosphere, when the other co-creator has just been crowing to the press about his work with the daughter of a brutal dictator (!!!!?!?!).

To cut to the chase, Seville a l’Aube is really lovely stuff, but I am somewhat perplexed by many of the reviews of it. Part of what intrigued me about Seville a l’Aube from the reviews and press was the promise of a dark [modern] orange blossom. I was expecting a floriental perfume with an incensey-beeswaxy drydown, but I don’t really perceive those basenotes at all.

When I spray Seville a l’Aube, I get an immediate POP of orange blossom. Oh my God, I’m thinking – GAWWWWW-JUS. And then – quite suddenly, about 20 or 30 seconds into the wear – comes an intense sour green note. I’m thinking it’s the lavender? Or maybe lavender together with a very green form of incense (I think Mals suggested this)? I tend not to do very well with lavender, although I’ve grown to appreciate it slightly more than I used to. Anyway. At best, I find this sour green stage intellectually compelling, at worst, I find it stomach-curdling. Then, after 30 or 40 minutes, the sour green fades, and the orange blossom reappears. And it’s the best orange blossom I’ve ever smelled and it goes on FOREVER. It’s so, so lovely. My husband, he of the white-floral obsession, really loves it and will repeatedly ask for a sniff of my wrist. It’s such a rich note, avoiding any soapiness, and I’m almost perplexed by how long it lasts – I wonder what tricks Duchaufour had up his sleeves to make the orange blossom last so long. The orange blossom, rich as it is, never verges into indolic, but I’d describe it as incredibly sensual, and almost heart-breakingly beautiful. I never thought of myself as an orange-blossom fan, but Seville has completely turned me around on the note. Now for another puzzle: many of the reviews I’ve read reference the incense, beeswax, and spice in the drydown, and I don’t perceive any of those at all! Rather, I just get MORE orange blossom (not a bad thing, as I hope I’ve made clear) and warm, purring, sexy musk. I am a musk lover, so that’s fine with me.

Quite honestly, I adore this perfume at every stage, except for the sour-green-lavender stage. Which, most times, I can get through just fine, knowing what the payoff will be, but other times, I feel that I want to scrub. What to do? I don’t know. I definitely affirm that Seville a l’Aube is a well-done perfume. I’m head-over-heels in love with the orange blossom note, which lasts throughout most of the fragrance’s development. But the fact remains that I have to get through a stage I really don’t care for to get to the part of the perfume I adore. I know I’ve read of others encountering this dilemma before, and I’ve experience in lesser form myself (e.g., By Kilian’s Liaisons Dangereuses, whose jammy-rose beginning I love, and whose drydown is just OK), but I don’t think I’ve ever before found a perfume that has a stage I love alongside a stage I despise.

Anyway, what this experience with Seville a l’Aube has led to, is an insane buying spree of orange-blossom-focused perfumes. There is seriously a good 70% of me that wants to buy Seville, sour green stage and all. But that seems sort of insane, right? So, in part guided by the recent orange blossom roundup that Patty wrote, I’ve bought a ton of orange blossom samples, hoping to find the one that’s exactly right.  We’ll see how my quest turns out – my budget wouldn’t allow me to buy everything she recommends, and I’m sure there are tons of great ones she didn’t even have room to list. If you have an orange blossom favorites, please recommend them in the comments! Or just tell me I’m insane, will learn to love sour green, and need to buy a bottle of Seville a l’Aube, the Perfect Orange Blossom Perfume.

Gorilla Perfumes at LUSH B Scent: Citrus-rose euphoria

So, the next post I was “supposed to” write was the one about Hové, the second local New Orleans perfumery we visited on our honeymoon. But, I haven’t managed to get through all the samples I got while there. I have this horrible habit of acquiring a bunch of samples and not managing to get through them… not for lack of desire to do so. I just get distracted. Some of these Hovés are stunners, and I really want to write about them. We’ll see how well I can manage my skin testing time – I have a lot of travel coming up in the next few weeks.

Anyway, yesterday Ari at Scents of Self posted that Lush is discontinuing a few of their perfumes (in stores, at least). I immediately went to determine if any of my faves are goners. A lot of the discontinued perfumes aren’t things I’ve ever seen in my local Lush anyway. But Ari’s post inspired me to go grab my little box of Lush samples. Like many a perfumista, last winter when Lush was offering a sample set I snapped one up. I haven’t gotten through all those samples yet, either. I open the box and keep applying the same three perfumes. (See, it’s a real disease.)

Anyway, I love a few of the Lush perfumes. I call them Lush perfumes, but I guess they’re really “Gorilla Perfumes at LUSH.” Whatever. One of them made my desert island list, although desert island lists have a tendency to evolve, of course. There are around three of the Lushes from the sample set that I would absolutely spring the $15-20 for a purse spray on. One of those is B Scent.

I find the Lush perfumes really interesting. Some of them are super-super legible, and others are totally weird and while very “botanical”-feeling, also confusing to the nose. B Scent falls into the former category. The Lush website gives the notes for B Scent as “Lemon, bergamot, fennel, lavender, rose, jasmine, ylang ylang, sandalwood and musk.” That’s right.

B Scent may be my favorite citrus rose scent. That position used to be occupied by Dawn Spencer Hurwitz’s Beach Roses, which I do still love, and Beach Roses has a nice salty aspect that B Scent doesn’t, but where Beach Roses is breezy, B Scent is rich and smooth. It starts with a wonderful, and I mean really superb, lemon note; it’s a foody, chewy, zesty lemon. It’s joined by fennel, which isn’t a note I would have expected to enjoy in perfumery, but it cuts the sweetness of lemon with a bit of herbal green. And then, a beautiful rich red nose note, joined by ylang. On me, the rosy heart notes lasts a long time and says its goodbyes with a gentle musk. It’s great. I wear it when I want to wear a scent I understand and that makes me happy. I love Tania Sanchez’s reviews of the Lush perfumes in Perfumes: The A-Z Guide. (To make matters confusing, many of the Gorilla Perfumes at LUSH were formerly part of a different, now-defunct, brand owned by the Lush founders, B Never Too Busy to Be Beautiful – look for the reviews under that house in the Guide.) I’ll quote Tania’s review: “The rose here smells like half of Joy – an exuberant pink flower with a charming anisic sweetness – paired with a vivid lemony top note worth smelling again and again.”

Second Joy reference in as many posts! The Guide writers have a clear appreciation for the Lush fragrances and in several cases compare them to classic perfumes, which I find thought-provoking (rather than absurd). I’m not sure I can quite read B Scent as a modern Joy – there would need to be more jasmine! jasmine! jasmine! – but I can at least see that they’re part of the same broad family. Warm, joyous floral scents. (NOT crisp and cool. LOL.)

Anyway, at some point I’ll use up my little B Scent sample, and I’ll surely shell out the $17 – $17!!! – that it costs to get a purse spray. B Scent has only moderate lasting power on me (e.g., it doesn’t last through the workday, as many perfumes do on me), but at that price, I’m not complaining. (I’ll add that a lot of the Lush perfumes have only moderate lasting power on me, but I’d venture it’s partly because they’re so heavy on naturals.) The Lush perfumes really make me angry at department store perfumery – if Lush can make stuff that smells this great and costs this little, why can’t anyone else?

Wedding perfume: Tauer Carillon Pour un Ange

It should come as no surprise to anyone who’s been reading this blog at any point during its short life that Andy Tauer is one of my favorite, maybe my favorite, perfumer. He’s probably the only perfumer who has multiple bottles on my “to-buy list” at the moment. (That’s a future post I want to write – what’s on my “to-buy” list.)

Falling in love with Andy Tauer’s creations over the last year and a half or so, I felt that I ought to wear one of his perfumes for my wedding. I also felt that the wedding perfume should be a delicate floral. The idea occurred to me early on that I should wear Carillon Pour un Ange and it just kind of stuck. I ended up asking for a bottle for Mothers Day so that I could wear it to the wedding. It’s actually my first full bottle from Andy – I have subsisted on samples otherwise. I know it won’t be my last.

Carillon is to me, an unabashedly gorgeous feminine scent. It’s a bit of a bombshell, the sexed-up version of lily of the valley. That seemed perfect on many levels – lily of the valley being a virginal, bridal type of flower, but upping the ante a little because I like to go big with perfume.

That said, I’ve actually learned that Carillon’s true beauty is most evident if you apply a bit sparingly.

For me, that’s hard.

From reading blogs, I have gathered that most perfumistas apply a lot lighter than me. There are some exceptions. Kevin at NST has written about his copious spraying. But no joke, I often apply eight sprays or more of a fragrance in the morning.

With Carillon, it seems like the magic number is four. One on each wrist, one on each side of my throat. This is like… such restraint for me, y’all.

Carillon sprayed with more abandon is overwhelming. It’s death by lily. It doesn’t smell real – it smells like psychedelic lilies. It can almost be choking. You gasp.

Carillon sprayed lightly keeps a bit of delicacy. There is greenery. The floral notes are more distinct. Lilac. Ylang (oh, weirdo ylang, I love you!). And lily! The best thing about Carillon at a lower volume is I can make out a beautiful rose in the heart. The lily of the valley-rose harmony lingers for hours. The scent is able to maintain its greenness over time – the green spring flowers linger far past the point when you would expect them to vanish in most perfumes. In fact, Carillon to me is a bit linear – not completely, though. The drydown is hard to describe. I’ve seen it elsewhere sort of described as a lily + leather scent, as if it dries down into a legible leather perfume, and I don’t really see that myself. I think it’s a bit mossy, a bit ambergris, and maybe the barest hint of suede. But the floral notes hold on so long and exist alongside those base notes, it’s almost an eternal spring in a bottle. And that bottle. The pictures online don’t really do it justice (so I’m not posting one). It’s a object d’arte. I truly love the pentagon bottles that Andy introduced a few years ago. Every time he introduces one in another color I twitch a little bit. It’s a bit of a collect-em-all syndrome that I’ve got.

So, anyway, I’ve waited almost a month to really write about the wedding, but it was really completely fabulous and went off without a hitch. The scent was perfect – I mean, it was August in North Carolina and the reception was outside, so any perfume was going to have to live through some heat and humidity. I’d rather have been wearing something with a bit of a bloom then something that would fade the moment I began perspiring. I love that I bought a special bottle for the wedding that I’ll get to use and think of that day in the coming years. And that it was my first REAL full bottle from Tauer Perfumes.

Kate Walsh Billionaire Boyfriend and its cultural baggage

So, when Kate Walsh released her initial fragrance, Boyfriend, in 2010, she seemed to taking an rather unique route to releasing a celebrity fragrance. For one, Kate isn’t quite as famous as many of the other celebs who are pushing perfume. In fact, not being a Grey’s Anatomy watcher, I was barely aware of who she was. I thought the concept behind the fragrance was decently interesting – smelling like the fragrance of your lover the morning after. Fine. That’s something that resonates with me at least to some degree. Kate also seemed to be taking quite a bit of interest in the actual smell of her perfume. And it showed. The fragrance itself was quite well done: a sweet plummy amber vanilla with a touch of patch. It wasn’t really my thing. I need the florals, yo. But, for many, it was among the best celebrity fragrance releases of 2010-11. I actually might have to concur with that assessment – I think it is better executed, if not quite as much to my taste, as the other leading candidate, Jennifer Aniston by Jennifer Aniston (that’s fun to type).

When Kate announced that her 2012 fragrance was to be a Boyfriend Flanker entitled “Billionaire Boyfriend,” man, heads started SPINNING. There was some over the top marketing language:

Pricvate jets, superyachts, diamonds and roulette. It’s a dream of wealth and glamour where every whim is indulged. Imagine a vintage convertible whisking you down the Amalfi Coast to an elegant dinner, taking you to a time and place where a gentleman would never let a lady pay. Live the fantasy with Billionaire Boyfriend.

Indulgent and sensual, this floral-oriental fragrance opens with succulent fruit notes, including bergamot and tangerine wrapped in lush green leaves. The scent intoxicates as it blooms into a provocative blend of black jasmine, velvet orchid, gardenia, and a touch of patchouli flower. As the fragrance dries down, it exudes an addictive, sensual, warmth and a sense of wealth with hints of vetiver, cistus, sandalwood, and golden amber.

Even the Billionaire bottle is one of a kind: opulent, rare, crafted, and disruptively beautiful. Inspired by a special reserve champagne bottle, the antiqued platinum-mirrored finish exemplifies the wealth and glamour of an old world atelier.

Um, OK. The tagline for the fragrance was “Let Him Spoil You.” It all seemed like Kate was being really serious. Like, a serious doormat of a woman. Many were offended – either by the anti-feminist tone of the copy or the blatant materialism and classism, or some combination of all three. The Now Smell This comments on the date of the fragrance announcement very well demonstrate the perfume community’s distaste for the marketing. Ari at Scents of Self, who had previously written a glowing review of  Boyfriend, did a hilarious parody of the ad copy, and declared her lack of interest in even smelling something called “Billionaire Boyfriend.”

Then, this happened.

Yeah, Kate Walsh was trolling us hardcore.

Only… this video doesn’t make things better. Kate’s all: “WINK WINK WINK IT’S A JOKE YOU GUYZ! YOU DON’T NEED A BILLIONAIRE BOYFRIEND! SEE, MY SILLY COMMERCIAL MAKES IT ALL ALRIGHT!”

But… there is so much racist subtext in the commercial. The music. The bling. The grill. REALLY? I am actually supremely troubled by the video, moreso than I ever was by the suggestion that I need to get a sugardaddy. As pointed out by Jessica at NST, even the original Boyfriend could be interpreted as having its own gender baggage. (By the way, check out the comments to that post – far more than the average NST fragrance review post, largely driven by the controversial nature of the fragrance). But the video for Billionaire Boyfriend took the ad to a whole different level. I just think the ad is in incredibly, incredibly bad taste. Gross.

Yet, in spite of, and maybe perhaps because of, ok, maybe mostly because of, the controversy generated by the fragrance, I made an effort to try the fragrance when it came to Sephora.

And I kind of love it.

OK, maybe not love. But I think it will probably win my “best celebrity fragrance of 2012″ award.

The fragrance begins with green citrus and quickly progresses into some really badass sweet florals. Jasmine,some orchid. But jasmine. Not a clean jasmine, a growling angry jasmine cut with the plum and amber and smokey vanilla of original Boyfriend. It’s a sweet fragrance. The closest comparison I can come up with for this one is LUSH Lust, which another favorite of mine, but Lust is sweeter, more candied, more indolic, and just plain nastier. Billionaire Boyfriend’s jasmine is far tamer than Lust’s, and the overall feel of Billionaire Boyfriend is that of a floriental versus Lust, which is… I don’t know, delicious raunchy prostitute candy, unlike much else.  Billionaire Boyfriend take the very popular and commercial floriental genre and skanks it up just a little bit, makes it more challenging. The drydown is quite similar to that of the original Boyfriend –  warm amber, patchouli, vanilla. I feel that the lasting power is quite good, although Jessica, at the NST post linked above, didn’t have quite the luck I did. Honestly, this stuff loves my skin. I would say that other than a few classics (No. 5, Hypnotic Poison, Shalimar, and a few others) it’s probably the best thing on the shelf of the (small-ish) Sephora near my house. No, I’m not kidding.

I have been been testing Billionaire Boyfriend from an EDP sample made for me at Sephora, but the 15 mL perfume oil has my name on it for the holidays. ($20! It’s practically free!)

Now. All of this brings up a question: how does marketing and the misdeeds of artists (if Kate Walsh can be thought of as an “artist” here) affect our view of art? I consume lots of things in our culture that I should find reprehensible. I mean, I did a concentration in Women’s Studies as an undergrad and I went to grad school to study women’s and gender history. The personal is political. The things that I do are Very Important. I need to set a Good Feminist Example. Yet, I sit around and watch the Bachelor and the Bachelorette, which is pretty much ground zero for enforced heteronormativity. And today, I smelled like Billionaire Boyfriend. Would I have told a work colleague, or one of my Very Serious grad school friends, what I was wearing if they had asked?? (OK. I probably would. Because I like to be shocking. But I might have felt bad about it later.) The bottom line is that to live in this world we have to make compromises. If I was going to really live out all the deeply felt politics I have to feel when I feel politics, I would be Occupying Kate Walsh. But it’s part of the dirtiness and nastiness of life that I don’t. But perfume is about that anyway. Something Alyssa Harad wrote in her delightful Coming to My Senses – about the dirty sensation of perfume being about money!! – and I’d add – bodies!! – makes this hobby so intriguing, endlessly fascinating, and yes, shameful.

Tableau de Parfums Loretta

Well, I’m horribly neglectful of this blog, I fear. My only excuses are: A) I never promised to be a super-regular blogger and B) my other blog has been a ton of work lately, in some cases sucking up all my leisure time. OK, enough with excuses. On to a review.

You may remember back in February I reviewed the first perfume in the Tableau de Parfums line, Miriam, along with the accompanying Woman’s Picture film portrait of Miriam. In March, Brian Pera and Andy Tauer, the creators of Woman’s Picture and Tableau de Parfums, respectively, ran a Kickstarter campaign to raise money for Brian’s film Only Child. For the Kickstarter, I pledged to receive three purse-sprays-worth of perfume: 7 mLs of Miriam, the second Tableau de Parfums portrait, Loretta, and a limited edition “snapshot” fragrance called Dark Passage. Today I’ll be reviewing Loretta, which will go up for sale as part of the regular Tableau de Parfums line in the Fall.

(The film portrait of Loretta was released last year as part of the Woman’s Picture feature, and unfortunately I haven’t been able to find a way to view the Loretta film portrait yet – although I believe I will be able at some point soon as part of my Kickstarter perks. What this means, though, is I can’t contextualize the Loretta perfume with the Loretta film as I did with Miriam.)

When I first read about the Loretta fragrance, I felt that I must try it. It’s a tuberose fragrance, and it’s an Andy Tauer. Either one of those characteristics is apt to make me want to try a fragrance, but the combination of both is undeniable. Tuberose, in all its heady glory, is one of my favorite notes in perfumery, and Andy Tauer just may be my favorite perfumer of all time. OF ALL TIME!

Let’s start by saying that Loretta was not quite what I expected. I knew that Loretta wasn’t going to be a bright, tropical tuberose. On the Only Child Kickstarter page, the notes of Loretta were given thusly:

Tauer describes Loretta as being on the rich, sensual and dark side. Notes are ripe dark fruit, a velvet rose, a spicy tuberose, a note of sparkling orange blossom, all nicely arranged on a queen sized bed of dark patchouli and woody notes with vetiver, ambergris, a touch of leather, and sweetened orris root.

Sounds like an oriental tuberose, right? Yes. Those curious to learn even more background on the fragrance should check out Andy going on the record about Loretta on Brian’s Evelyn Avenue blog (conceptual analysis of Loretta as it relates to the Loretta character) and his own Tauer Perfumes blog (much more about the specific chemicals and notes of the fragrance). At Brian’s blog, he says that “Loretta references the fragrances of the eighties.” OK. Oriental tuberose that references the 80s, with a dose of fruit? I think all perfumistas’ minds immediately rush to Dior’s Poison. I have only a passing familiarity with Poison, but I admire it and have wanted to get a mini for a while. Still… I don’t think I had really wrapped my head around the idea of really experiencing a big oriental tuberose from Andy Tauer. It was a bit shocking at first. But over the course of three wearings, my view of Loretta has already evolved greatly.

First wearing: first moments of Loretta are almost a little musty – just a pop of mothballs. Then. FRUIT and some flowers. Why wasn’t I expecting this? Big, abstract fruit. This fruit is like that of an abstract Picasso still life or maybe even a Klee still life (is there fruit there?? maybe not. doesn’t matter). It’s neon, neon purple – the plastic stickers that secure the Loretta sample are purple, and there’s a reason for that. I’m not sure I can recognize any individual fruit notes. It’s seriously hallucinogenic fruit. After it settles down, I still smell the fruit, and a mix of florals… tuberose… and then the woody drydown.

Second wearing: Between the first and second wearing of Loretta, I got a cold and I didn’t wear any perfume for a few days. In the meantime, I saw two brief reviews or write-ups of Loretta. I know some people who write about perfume try not to read reviews of the perfume they’re reviewing before they write, feeling that they might let the views of others alter their views or feelings about the scent. I’ve never avoided reading about perfume, and will admit to being influenced by many of the reviews I read, but not in a way I find problematic. I feel reading others’ take on the scent often helps me refine my thinking and writing or helps me pick out a note that is there but maybe hiding below the surface. In this case, the review of Loretta by Tama at CaFleurebon at first didn’t connect with me at all. Wearing psychedelic purple fruit in the desert? I’m not sure. I agree with her that it’s NOT a tropical tubey. But I see it as a boudoir tubey, a tubey for a steamy harem and rough sex. Or maybe not quite those things, but the erotic orientalist fantasy of those things. (That’s part of the point right? That the character Loretta lives in a fantasy world?) Really, here, as I write, I think Tama’s on to something, maybe, but it’s not the actual desert, but the fantasy desert with a Byronic hero. I know I quoted some artworks above, and I probably did it horribly, but to use a genre of art that I actually know a bit about, Loretta is the passionate Byronic hero portrayed by my beloved Nureyev – perhaps with a backdrop of the desert, but also doomed, feral, and wet, dripping with passion and sensuality.

OK! So what was the second review I read? Well, I can’t really call it a review, because I’m sure she wouldn’t, and I’m also fairly sure she’ll try to write something polished about Loretta soon. But Mals (of Muse in Wooden Shoes fame) and I had a brief conversation in the comments on NST about Loretta. Let’s just say, Mals is a lot better at parsing notes than I am. Mals quickly listed a lot of notes that had escaped me on the first wearing. Patchouli. Camphor. Bubble gum. YES. The fruits are so overblown, they do resemble bubble-gum a bit. Not as overtly as in the bubble-gum tuberose Honoré des Prés Vamp à NY, a perfume which I still can’t make up my mind about – I found it delightful on the first wear and crass on the second – but the fruits do verge on a bubble-gum scent at time.  And that hit of mothballs that I caught at first? BINGO! Now, on the second wear, I’m smelling an intense spicy patchouli that verges on camphor, that undergrids the whole composition from start to finish. At times it may be obscured by the fruit and flowers, but it’s there the whole way through.

Third wearing: My feelings after the third wearing are much the same as the second, only with more nuance. I can start to notice the rose a bit, interweaving with the tuberose – honestly, if I hadn’t gone into this knowing it was “a tuberose,” would I even have thought that it was a tuberose? And I begin to think of the fruit as sort of plummy or grapey… perfumery plum often seems to wear on my skin as grape. The drydown I begin to appreciate more and more. I’ve always loved Robin of NST’s coinage of the fragrance category of “wood pudding;” she originally devised the term, I believe, to describe the divine Givenchy Organza Indecence. Well, in the late stages, Loretta has a wood pudding aspect, for sure. It’s warm and round and sensual wood with some spice – not the kind of intimidating BDSM woods that have been popping up all over the niche market lately. Interestingly, the drydown may end up being my favorite part of Loretta, just as it is with Miriam. I’m still not picking up half the notes in the wonderful description of Loretta that Andy gave for Kickstarter, but I fear that’s par for the course with me.

Final verdict? Loretta is an intense perfume. It’s a wild ride. It’s really not of this world; I see it as a fantasy perfume. It’s not quite sexual, but maybe it harbors unrequited and misdirected passion. (Should I just link to Nureyev again? NUREYEV.) I think it would be easy to dismiss it on first wear as “OMG BUBBLEGUM FRUITY TUBEROSE,” if you’re a person who only gives one chance to a perfume sample (I know you’re out there). To me, it’s more than that. I do think the closest reference I have for it is Poison, but I don’t think even Poison has quite the wicked insanity that Loretta does. (I may be spending more time with Poison soon). I’ll be really curious to revisit Loretta in cooler weather (it’s been in the 90s-100s here in Texas as I’ve been testing this) or after I’ve seen the Loretta film, to see if my perception of Loretta changes. I don’t know yet, honestly, if Loretta is something I would add to my collection. I’ll certainly use up the purse spray, and maybe swoon a few times.