I venture into vintage

I’ve had this post stewing for a while, and today, reading Angela’s list of the twenty-six vintage perfumes every perfumista should try inspired me to finally write it up.

I’m not a vintage perfume collector, generally. It’s partially a money thing – why fall in love with some thing that’s going to be expensive and super hard to find? – but really mostly a time thing. I don’t have very much time to scour eBay or go to antique shops, which are the two prime markets for vintage perfume.

However, the first weekend in November, a friend came to visit from Brooklyn and it was decided we were all going antiquing. I had mixed feelings about this, as frankly, I often find antique shops super-creepy. Even in the moments when I don’t find them creepy, I know that don’t really have any extra space in my apartment to cram dust collectors antiques. Since this trip was planned by others in our group, I figured I’d make hay while the sun shone and see if I could find some vintage perfumes. And I did! And I bought the two most appealing things I found. (The runners-up that didn’t come home with me? A masculine-smelling mystery Avon in a Santa Claus flacon, and a mini of Givenchy Gentleman – one of the stores had like 40 of those… (!!)). (And yes, I broke my no perfume until 2013 pledge… but does perfume-antiquing totally count? I’m not sure. Of course, I broke it again today since Soivohle is discontinuing their studio collection at 20% off, combined with a 30% Cyber Monday deal… uh yeah. I have a problem.)

Exhibit A (excuse my horrid photography):


That is Max Factor’s Hypnotique, in the Sophisti-Cat presentation. $14. A quick Google search indicates that Max Factor produced edition sof many (most? all?) of their perfumes in various colored cat presentations at one point. There aren’t a ton of reviews of Hypnotique out there, so I don’t really know what to expect when I put this baby on – I’m planning on wearing it tomorrow. I did find this discussion of some of the visuals associated with the perfume. On Fragrantica, someone says it smells like daffodils and Jovan Musk, and Waft by Carol says it’s a powdery floral in the vein of L’Aimant. Well, sign me up if so. I’ll report back.

Funny story about purchasing this: I got this one in a fairly pretentious antique shop on South Congress (Austin’s boulevard of hipsters). The woman who rung me up pointed out that the cat was missing its eye – did I notice? Was I sure I wanted it? Et cetera. I told her, oh sure, I’m buying it to open and wear the perfume. The look she gave me was beyond. Beyond. Like I said I was going to go burn down the Library of Alexandria.

Exhibit B:


Yes, a 4 mL mini of Jean Desprez’s Bal à Versailles, with accompanying pouch.  $12 with tax. Can anyone help date this? I don’t know that I believe it to be that old. I’m wearing this now. I’ve only had it on for like an hour so I’m not going to really review it. It’s nice, kind of a toasty civety basalm thing. Like a civet sweater. Not nearly as scary as I’d been led to believe, but I’m guessing I have a pretty high tolerance for civet. Maybe. Honestly, you know what this reminds me of most? The modern version of Arpège, with the woods-and-warm-dirty-skin drydown. They’re definitely different in the early stages, and the modern Arpège is shot through with light and champagne bubbles and isn’t balsamic… But something about the civet and/or woods accord really reminds me of my Arpège… I think I’ll take Arpège over this, though. I have to be in a very specific mood to wear heavy orientals/balsalms/ambers… and it comes rarely. And if I want something deeply dirty, I think I’ll take the new Angel Parfums de Cuir – I tried that one on skin this weekend and ERMAGERD, amazing. Just wish I could get my mitts on the Womanity Parfums de Cuir now, since the other two have rocked my world. Back to Bal à Versailles: I’m glad I tried it and I’ll definitely give it a few more wears, but thus far, not capturing my heart.

Funny story about purchasing this: I found this in a spinning case at another shop on South Congress, a far more mom-and-pop style establishment. I asked about the provenance of the perfume, and the shop owner said she’d just put it out there in the last few weeks, and it had been sitting on her mother-in-law’s dressing table for years. I said, oh, I hear this is one of the dirtiest perfumes ever created, a very boudoir perfume. She gives me this look and says, oh gosh, well I can’t imagine why my mother-in-law had it, then. Oh, the secret lives of mother-in-laws! :)

I should have more vintage discussion coming soon… I don’t imagine that vintage will ever become a major category on this blog, but I got some very nice swaps on the recent Now Smell This and Perfume Posse swaps, of both vintage and modern things, including the one vintage perfume that I knew all along was the one vintage perfume I had to try, even if I tried no other vintage perfumes. (Of course, that’s the package I’m still waiting for, but hopefully I won’t leave you all hanging for too long!).

Honeymoon Perfume Shopping: Avery Fine Perfumery (and a holy grail find)

I’m finally wrapping up my honeymoon perfume shopping series, oh, only three months after the actual honeymoon. The final stop on our New Orleans perfume shopping blitz was Avery Fine Perfumery, the sole US outpost of a perfume shop based (I think) in the UK. We hit up Avery on our last day in New Orleans, just before getting in the car to drive to my husband’s father’s beach condo in Alabama. In stark contrast to the vintage vibe of Bourbon French Parfums and Hové Parfumeur, Avery, a boutique specializing in niche perfumes, has an extremely modern, urban feel, in line with its location in New Orleans’ central business district. I was particularly excited about visiting Avery because I knew I had not sniffed most of the lines they carry before visiting. In fact, I had planned on budgeting quite a bit of money to spend there – perhaps a new full bottle for myself.

Our visit to Avery Fine Perfumery began with a very unexpected and serendipitous perk. When we walked in, the salesperson immediately introduced herself and I quickly ascertained that she was someone who Knows What She is Talking About. She mentioned she had a perfume blog, and I asked her which one… Well, it turned out to be Barbara Herman, author of Yesterday’s Perfume, one of my absolute favorite perfume blogs! (And author of a forthcoming book on gender and the perfumed history of the 20th century which I am very, very, very, very excited about.) I think Barbara was pretty surprised to have a customer who was acquainted with her writing, and I was certainly surprised and thrilled to have such a knowledgeable guide to show me Avery’s offerings!

I smelled many things while at Avery – I was surprised by many of my reactions. I didn’t care for any of the Six Scents perfumes (which for some reason I thought I might), and I rather liked one of the gross-in-theory Blood Concept perfumes, which I had expected to hate (wish I could remember which one now!). I was very impressed by the Nasomattos I smelled, in particular Nuda, wasn’t nearly as indolic as I had been led to believe on the blogosphere.  But my favorite discovery at Avery was from a line I had barely heard of.

Barbara started me by going through white florals – jasmines and tuberoses and the like – because I told her initially that I love florals and aldehydes (which is true). But although we discovered some significant likes – Nuda being one of the prime candidates – there was nothing that tugged at my heart strings. Finally, we took a different tack. I told her I sometimes liked fruity scents, if they are well-done. So she suggested I try some of the Nez à Nez perfumes. Nez à Nez was a line I was barely aware of before visiting Avery – it wasn’t something that seemed beloved on the blogosphere by any means. We first tried Bal Musqué. I very much liked this perfume – a mostly musky perfume with hints of fruit, candy, and leather. My husband particularly loved this perfume. But then.

We tried Nez à Nez’s Amber à Sade. Oh, my.


Amber à Sade is one of the most perplexingly-named perfumes I have tried in a long time. I hear the name and I expect a balsamic, dirty, animalic leathery amber. But…

It’s the most delicious, juicy, berried amber fragrance ever. It is pretty much my Holy Grail of Sweet Berried-Amber fragrance. Sweet-warm-berry is a genre I appreciate – I like scents like Bath and Body Works Dark Kiss – but I never dreamed of such a rich, sensual, adult amber mixed with berries. Heck, I’m usually not even a big amber fan! Ambery things often seem too sweet or “obvious” to me.

Amber à Sade bursts with rich berries at the start – I distinctly get at least three berries: strawberry, raspberry, and blackberry. That’s something, right? Often “berry” in modern perfume just smells like a frooty mishmash. They’re harvest berries, rich and warm and not exactly “fresh.” And then it’s amber and caramel and tonka. Amber à Sade surprises me, because while it has gourmand aspects, it doesn’t quite smell like something I’d want to eat – it smells less edible than something like Dark Kiss, I think. There is a salty kick alongside the amber to my nose, and I can’t really determine what the source of the saltiness might be – maybe a salty caramel? The saltiness makes me feel the amber is sinking into, blending into my skin. It feels very human, and makes it feel like less of a true gourmand to me. (Maybe this “humanness” is the Sade connection?) I find Amber à Sade to have considerably less patchouli than many comparable sweet-warm-berry scents, and probably less vanilla too. The focus is on berry, amber, tonka, and caramel, in that order. So if you’re a patchouli-phobe looking for a sweet-warm-berry perfume, you might like this. Some note lists I’ve seen mention leather, and I don’t get leather much at all, unless that’s what is somehow providing the salty-warmed-skin aspect of the perfume.

Amber à Sade makes me think lots of thoughts. First off, it’s interesting that I find a sweet berry scent so sensual and hardly at all girlish. It seems very versatile – like I could wear it as well in a ballgown or in a snug sweater and tight jeans, although perhaps it’s more of a cool weather perfume than a warm weather one. It also makes me think about the prestige and placement of perfume genres in our perfume community… Particularly I’m reminded of a recent quote by Denyse Beaulieu on Grain de Musc. In a rant about Lanvin’s Jeanne Couture (a perfume that I imagine I myself would not much like) back in May, she wrote,

“though I utterly adore the smell of raspberries in a bowl, that fruit can be juicy, but never couture. A plum can pull it off. So can a peach, without mussing a hair. In a pinch, I’ve even seen pineapple crown a Patou chypre. A cherry might play on its kinship with almond and licorice…But not the merry berry…”

Really? This claim bugged me at the time, and now I’ve got some evidence: here’s a gourmandish berry perfume that to me feels sensual, womanly, devastatingly sophisticated, and expensive. It smells like some kind of human skin and berry hybrid, a bridge between the plant and animal kingdoms if you will. I love it. LOVE LOVE LOVE LOVE. (Maybe irrationally so. I’m actually half-worried all of you are going to go out and try this very overlooked perfume now, and come back telling me I’m insane.)

The catch? Well, Barbara though maybe they had a 30mL in stock, or could get one ordered for me. The 30 mL was in my price range. The 100 mL was not. Ultimately, Avery couldn’t get their hands on a 30 mL, but I’m hoping sometime in 2013 I’ll be able to get the 100 mL of this. Because it is perfect. It is THE berry perfume. I used up the last of the generous sample Barbara made me today, and I’m in mourning.

(Incidentally, after my positive experiences with Amber à Sade and Bal Musqué at Avery, I am also convinced I need to try more of the Nez à Nez line.)

We didn’t walk away from Avery empty-handed, though. We got my husband something. My husband loves the scent of figs and had been looking for a masculine fig scent for himself. He discovered Esteban Parfums’ Folie de Figue and immediately knew it would be his. It was on sale, too! I think it has rapidly become his favorite perfume in his collection. It’s a good option for a masculine-enough fig perfume that is more sweet than it is green. I’m so glad he found his fig perfume, and also exceedingly grateful for a husband who has not just endured my fragrance hobby, but embraced it and taken it up in his own right. Hooray!

Honeymoon Perfume Shopping: Hové Parfumeur

The French Quarter of New Orleans is blessed with not one, but two, local perfumeries. Earlier, I wrote about my experience at Bourbon French Perfumes. Today, I’m blogging about my experience at Hové Parfumeur.

Hové is an entirely different shopping experience than Bourbon French. It’s a slightly larger store, to begin with. I connected more with the Bourbon French salesperson – we had a lengthy conversation. The Hové salesperson seemingly wasn’t very communicative, but she also had several customers to attend to while we were there – she was perfectly friendly when we approached her. One of the weird things about Hové, especially for an experienced perfume shopper, is that as far as I can tell, you are not allowed to test the perfume on skin in the store. Instead, they have blotter strips, which as near as I can tell have been dipped into extrait and laid out on the counters. They ask you to “test” the perfume by sniffing the blotters. You can sample  their entire range of perfumes this way… But for me, it was not very satisfying, as you might imagine! It took me quite a long time to determine what I wanted to get in my sample set since I had to test the perfumes in this way. Plus, if there is more than one customer in the store, you may be delayed as they spend time perusing the strips, since there is no tester out – you have to wait for the person in front of you to finish. I assume this blotter strategy is a way to prevent tester theft, but from a customer service perspective, I think it would be better to have testers out and just assume some loss. Whatever. I was lucky that I was able to go through the strips several times to figure out what I wanted to get in my sample set, but I can imagine if the store was much busier than it was while I was there, it would become a struggle.

Hové offers all their scents in cologne and extrait, and you can get sampler sets in each. The pricing depends on whether you choose perfumes from their Standard or Luxury lines. I chose the extrait sampler set and got a mix of Standard and Luxury perfumes. I was also rather tempted by their full line of body powders, which were on sale while I was there in August. I really regret not buying a powder now. They do have lotions, oils, soaps, and a range of other products in their scents as well.

I must say, I have had better luck with these six Hové perfumes than I did with the five from Bourbon French, but it almost goes without saying that I would. I got to choose these exact six whereas at Bourbon French I was not able to select what I wanted in the set. Looking back on my reactions to these two houses, I wonder if it would have been better to just get a lotion or spray in a scent I liked at Bourbon French rather than be forced into their sampler set.

Tea Olive: “The fragrance of the southern Sweet Olive is unique. It is a languid and exotic sweetness heightened by a teasing piquantness, thus creating a fragrance totally feminine and intriguingly different.”

I think Hové’s description of Tea Olive is rather accurate. As many of you surely know, tea olive is another name for osmanthus. I was intrigued by the idea of a “southern” osmanthus scent. I haven’t tried a great number of osmanthus perfumes, but I have a general appreciation for the note – LUSH’s 1000 Kisses Deep is on my “to-buy” list and Mona di Orio’s Oud would be, too, if I were made of money (HA!). Plus, I seem to recall having read a positive review of Hové’s Tea Olive before. So, having briefly researched the Hové line before our trip, I felt that I wanted to try Tea Olive. It was the one thing I wanted to try going in. Surprisingly, though, Tea Olive is probably my least favorite of the Hové perfumes. It is primarily an osmanthus scent, but it’s very, very sweet and almost… I don’t know how to describe it.  I could swear I smell a bit of bell pepper or pimiento or something in it. I assume this is the “piquantness”? Is this a natural aspect of osmanthus? I really don’t know. It’s definitely unique and I could imagine someone falling in love with this perfume… just not me. While my opinion of Tea Olive is definitely improving after a second wearing, it doesn’t hold a candle in my mind to the other two osmanthus perfumes I mentioned.

Magnolia: “The true Southern Magnolia, a fragrance of subdued warmth cooled by fresh notes, redolent of the deep South.”

Magnolia was another I chose, because, duh, THE SOUTH. Seemed like you have to get the magnolia perfume at a southern perfumery. I also love magnolia. But, I have a theory that no magnolia perfume will ever be able to live up to my childhood memory of my grandmother’s magnolia tree. “Magnolia” in perfumery often smells nothing like real magnolia, and degenerates into a watery floral. Hové’s magnolia does indeed starts fresh. It smells fresh, vaguely spicy. But is it magnolia?  At first I wasn’t sure. However, midway through the perfume’s development, the florals become richer, warmer,  spicier. It begins to remind me more of real magnolia. I actually begin to think it’s a pretty darn good magnolia scent, capturing the warmth and depth of the flower. I just wish it were… a bit more heady. Like, knocking me over with magnolia. Still. Recommended.

Spanish Moss: “Warm and exotic, mossy and green… a reformulation of an old favorite.”

Geez, Hové’s description of Spanish Moss doesn’t sound very promising, does it? Spanish Moss doesn’t really smell much like moss. It’s a sweet, bright floral. Like Tea Olive and Magnolia, it very much evokes traditional floral perfumes. It doesn’t smell contemporary at all. Spanish Moss is well-blended and creamier than Tea Olive and Magnolia. It’s hard for me to pick out specific notes, except probably heliotrope and definitely vanilla. I really like Brian Pera’s review of this one. I agree with him that while it doesn’t really smell like oakmoss whatsoever (don’t get this perfume expecting a true chypre), it gives the impression of moss and sweet florals. An imaginary moss. It’s quite nice.

Touché: “Rich floral notes heightened by a touch of citrus and a dash of spice create a zesty, happy and conservative fragrance.”

I wish Hové would provide better descriptions and note lists for their fragrances. “Zesty, happy, and conservative”???? At any rate, Touché is an aldehydic. The start is citrus + aldehydes. The heart is a creamy floral, verging on tropical. I am really horrible at picking out floral notes in floral blends, and particularly nervous about my ability when said florals are transmogrified by aldehydes, so I won’t even try. If I had to pinpoint the aldehydic fragrance it most reminded me of, I’d say Tableau de Parfums’ Miriam, with the following alterations: Remove the lavender. Amp up the aldehydes. Remove the expensive sandalwood. Add a floral note that makes it feel vaguely tropical, but yet not nearly as tropical as Bourbon French’s Perfume of Paradise. Replace the vanilla in the drydown with warm spice. Downgrade the quality of the ingredients a couple notches. That sounds bad, but… Miriam smells expensive, probably the most expensive-smelling thing I have in my collection. So being less expensive-smelling than Miriam isn’t necessarily an insult. It also has moments that remind me Balenciaga’s Le Dix, although Le Dix smells fresher/more springy… In fact, I think I’ve seen Le Dix compared to Miriam before. So. Touché is somewhere in between the two. I don’t know that I need this – I’ve got a purse spray of Miriam that will hopefully last me another… six months?? at the rate I spray that stuff, and a small decant of Le Dix. But, it’s nice.

Diverti: “Light and refreshing, this blend of sandalwood, cedar and a mixture of floral notes creates a divertissement of it own.”

I admit to being somewhat stumped by Hové’s description of Diverti. It just doesn’t compute. I wouldn’t call it light and refreshing… Maybe invigorating. To me, this smells like a really great spicy lavender cologne. I have issues with lavender; in fact, I often can’t stomach it in perfumes. But for whatever reason I like Diverti. It smells like an old-timey men’s aftershave to me. I smell mostly lavender, woods, and… moss? I think there could be some patchouli, or else the other woodsy things are working together to make the impression of patchouli. It’s probably been years since I smelled real old-school Old Spice, but that’s kind of how this reads to my brain… Old Spice. (I should get a reference sample of Old Spice.) I normally stick pretty solidly to perfumes that read feminine, but this is an example of a masculine-skewing fragrance I’d wear. I think it could be nice on my husband, as well, though. I notice that it’s listed on both the men’s and women’s section on Hové’s website, so they obviously share my views.

Belle Chasse: “The fresh spiciness of Carnation surrounded by the warm and subtle influences of romantic Rose and Jasmin and other romantic florals.”

Well, finally a Hové website description that lists some notes! I’ll be upfront. Belle Chasse is my favorite out of the six I got, and to my nose it is the most distinctive and expensive-smelling. (I’ll note that it’s part of the “Luxury” line, but then so are Touché and Spanish Moss…) Belle Chasse is a carnation fragrance. Now, I’ll be honest: though I love classic perfumery and old-timey florals, I am not very familiar with carnation perfumes. My understanding is that it’s hard to find a true carnation perfume these days because of IFRA restrictions on eugenol. (I’m sure Google will direct you to some bloggers who write about this phenomenon far more competently than I can.) I’d add, spicy florals are not exactly on-trend these days anyway. So literally, I have never smelled a pre-reformulation carnation perfume. I’m not sure I’ve smelled a post-reformulation carnation perfume. Well, I think Tauer’s Lonestar Memories has carnation. But otherwise I am entirely ignorant of carnations in perfumery, so I have no reference point. But I think Belle Chasse is freaking fabulous. It’s spicy, rich, smells like cloves. I know that eugenol smells like cloves. So I assume it’s got eugenol. I definitely pick up on the rose as well. Of all the parfums I tried from Hové, this was the strongest – the start is quite intense and can even be overwhelming. Wearing Belle Chasse is a commitment. I spilled some of this into my work computer’s keyboard (yeah) and over a week later I can still catch whiffs of it. I think it’s great, and if you want to buy a real carnation perfume that’s still being produced today, I’d imagine this is a good bet. Certainly for the price – a dram of parfum would put you out $24. Now… again, maybe Belle Chasse is really just a wan, forgettable version of carnation for someone who’s smelled all the great carnation perfumes. I wouldn’t know. Ignorance is bliss, because I think it’s wonderful. Hopefully I’ll get around to smelling some of the famous carnations soon.

So, as you may sense, my experience with Hové’s perfumes was quite rewarding. I like five out of the six perfumes I tried, and I’m not sure I even totally dislike Tea Olive. All of these perfumes have a vintage sensibility. Nearly all of them have a creamy, polished aspect that reminds me of sepia-toned photographs. While I find them eminently wearable, I’d imagine that lots of women my age would declare them “old-lady” perfumes, if they really thought about it. Although, I’d venture that in some cases, the unique history and relative exclusivity of Hové might cause them to give the perfumes a chance. None of the perfumes feel totally dated or difficult – they’re not THAT vintage – but I really admire Hové for maintaining the old-fashioned vibe.

We’re talking about going back to New Orleans for New Year’s, and if we go again, I’ll be hard-pressed to decide between getting another sample set (there are certainly enough perfumes to choose from, and there were a few that I narrowly passed up last time – I remember Radiance in particular), or getting some perfume or body products in one of the fragrances I already tried.

Two Alien flankers, Loretta soap, and where the heck I’ve been

Well, life is hopefully getting back to normal. I traveled out of town for three weekends in a row (two weddings and a work conference), and this weekend began the long process of catching up with things around the house. After church today, I spent almost all day sorting my daughter’s outgrown clothes and sorting through some hand-me-downs from a friend. Then, laundry, cooking dinner, and – whoops – emergency baking. I had forgotten I need to make an international food contribution for my daughter’s United Nations Day party at school this week, so we baked biscotti after dinner. Still so much to do – I have to sort through over 1000 wedding photos to find my favorite 60 for the wedding album this week (!!). Plus, I’m heading into the craziest three weeks at work that I’ll have all year.

So, not only have I fallen behind on stuff at home, I’ve fallen behind on sample testing (right as I acquired a bunch of samples, seemingly) and fragrance writing. In September, the other blog I wrote for shut down, which was a complicated decision – one I’m not completely at peace with, but I was hoping that not having to keep up with that blog (which often had multiple posts per day) would allow me to re-center myself on fragrance writing… in theory, that should pan out, but the last month has just been so insane that I haven’t gotten much tested or written. Here’s hoping the rest of the fall goes a little smoother.

I did run over to the mall yesterday. I think I’ve said this before, but in case you were wondering, yes, I literally live across the street from the mall, which means I can often get there several weekends a month. If it came to it, I could walk to the mall, although I typically don’t because it would entail crossing a super busy street. Anyway. I went to Dillard’s and saw only one thing I was really intrigued by: the new Thierry Mugler flankers. Now, as Mugler goes, I’m not a huge fan of Angel, but I really like Alien. For whatever reason, Alien has never been on my “to-buy” list, but if you forced me to rank the perfumes Dillard’s stocks in order of preference, Alien would probably be pretty close to the top. So when I saw the Parfums de Cuir and Alien Essence Absolue, I immediately sprayed Alien Parfume de Cuir on one arm and Alien Essence Absolue on the other. (Now, reading through some other blogs, I sort of wished I’d tried leather Angel too… ah well.)

I thought both of the Alien flankers were great. The Essence Absolue, in the end, may be a bit too sweet for my taste, but there’s a remarkable vanilla note that had me huffing my wrist through the early stages. Essence Absolue is pretty much a must-try, I think, if you like vanilla. Leather Alien doesn’t seem to be getting as much love as Essence Absolue or the other Parfums de Cuir, but I think I would seriously consider purchasing it if my perfume budget were a little larger. I recognize that it may not be as well-done as Essence Absolue, but it’s more to my taste. Alien Parfum de Cuir is fairly close to regular Alien, but it tamps down some of the sweetness of the original, and undergirds it with a delicate leather. I really, really liked it. Plus the bottle is really awesome in person, I thought. If I see it at a discounter for $45, I’ll definitely pick it up. But at $88, my budget can’t handle it… especially the way I’ve been buying samples lately. :( Anyway, I’m hoping to go back and try leather Angel… I don’t think they had leather Womanity. In fact, I’m not sure the small-ish Dillard’s by my house carries Womanity at all. I think I might re-test Womanity soon… I still have a sample.

One more thing, on a testing note: This weekend I finally opened up and used my Loretta soap from the Woman’s Picture/Tableau de Parfums Kickstarter. Dear God. It’s amazing. It’s much more of a tuberose soliflore than the Loretta perfume, but it’s clearly using the same grape-y tuberose absolute from the perfume. I detect, I don’t know, maybe a bit of orange blossom, but it’s mostly straight-on tuberose. Some of the darker undercurrents of the perfume (the psychedelic fruit, the woods, the mothballs) are not as present in the soap, which is almost bright. I don’t know if I’ve ever had a more luxurious soap experience, seriously, using this soap feels almost decadent. I really wish Andy’s soaps were available for individual purchase – I’d love to try Miriam and Mandarines Ambrée, and I would certainly restock on Loretta, too. Ah well. I need more shower stuff like I need a hole in the head – I have AN ENTIRE UNDER-SINK CABINET packed to the brim with shower gel, soap, etc. It’s crazytown.

I spent the weekend at the mall, and this is all I got to smell?!?!

I spent a lot of time at the mall both days this weekend, but most of it was occupied with buying my husband a suit and doing some returns of wedding gifts that we got duplicates of, and buying things we didn’t get from our registry. However, I managed to sniff a few new things.

The one I spent the least amount of time with was Nikki Minaj’s Pink Friday perfume. I sniffed this on card only. I was already wearing Tableau de Parfums Miriam, and I wasn’t going to screw with that. Also… Pink Friday is… pink. It’s a super-fake berry scent. DO NOT WANT.

The other two things I tried were… not pink.

Marchesa Parfum d’Extase. I was semi-hopeful for this one because… I’m not sure why. I think because the dresses are really pretty. Also, my friend Whitney liked it. I… I’m honestly not sure I’m smelling this. Notes are “Iris Flower, Star Anise, Black Current, Young Violet Leaves, Lotus Flower, Night Blooming Jasmine, Bulgarian Rose Water, Orange Blossom, Iris Root, Ambrox, Muscenone.” I’m thinking this one has some musk or something else I’m anosmic to, because its presence is almost non-existent despite ample spraying of my arm. What I can smell of it is not whatsoever sweet, but sort of laundry-clean, musky, with maybe a splash of some kind of floral water. Iris? The iris note is played up on the Sephora website’s copy, which says “Iris is the secret to the fragrance’s richness, capturing the delicate essence of its flower petals and the dark sensuality of its precious roots.” I mean. I’m not really smelling iris, but I’m not smelling much of anything, really. Definitely not dark sensuality. This reminds me more of Elie Saab Le Parfum or other assorted Francis Kurkdjian creations than it does Prada Infusion d’Iris. Although those Kurkdjian creations, by and large, have far more character than Marchesa. I’d be curious to hear what others thought of this or what they smelled. I really think I’m missing something.

Gucci Premiere. I like this marginally better than Marchesa Parfum d’Extase. I don’t know if I have much to add to Robin’s review on NST.  The opening is far more assertive than Marchesa’s, but it’s also more offensive and sweeter. It’s a shampoo scent, sort of reminiscent of Jennifer Lopez Love and Glamour. The drydown is sweet and musky and maybe has the barest hint of leather. Sooooo bare. Go buy Hermès Kelly Caleche if you want a gentle, sweet floral leather that you can buy at Saks.

Honestly, Marchesa Parfum d’Extase and Gucci Premiere both occupy this “scrubbed clean laundry musky floral” zone. I may like this category of perfumes even less than I like obviously gross celebrity fruity florals. Seriously, I’d rather wear a lot of Downy fabric softener scents than these. I do remain open to the idea that there’s some glorious synthetic note I’m missing in the Marchesa, but it’d have to be pretty dang glorious to compensate for the “meh” of what I am smelling.

It’s not all bad. I’ve been wearing some of the perfumes I got from the NST swap meet and have already met one great new love. And I had a nice Lush run on Friday (I gotta say, Lush hair care is doing wonders for my hair and scalp issues over the last few months). I also sneaked a very brief on-card sniff of the new Miss Dior Le Parfum, which seemed very promising. Not sure why I passed up trying that on skin for the others – I guess I had some hare-brained idea to do a Marchesa vs. Gucci throwdown, a sort of dramatic battle between the newest laundry florals out there. But they’re so blah that it doesn’t even make for interesting snark.

We’ll be traveling for a Friday wedding this week, so I probably won’t be posting much. But, I’m going to try to get my Hové post up before we leave on Wednesday. :)

Honeymoon Perfume Shopping: Bourbon French Parfums

Last month, we honeymooned to New Orleans and the Gulf Coast of Alabama. The most exciting part of the trip, for me, was the New Orleans portion – I had never been to that city and was very excited to take in all of its history, culture, and of course, perfume. I had read reviews of several local perfumeries online and I had really started conceptualizing the New Orleans part of the honeymoon as a perfume vacation. I had even selected a bed and breakfast that Jessica (she of Now Smell This and Tinsel Creation) had recommended to me on Twitter for its wonderful night-blooming jasmine in the backyard.

At any rate, the first full day in New Orleans we made the short walk from our B&B to the French Quarter to locate the two local perfumeries I had read about online. The first stop that morning was Bourbon French Parfums.

OK. So I had many ideas about how glamorous I should be on my honeymoon, and the muggy New Orleans heat quickly destroyed those fantasies. I pulled my hair back and I was sweating like the dickens. Please forgive my semi-unkempt appearance.

Bourbon French Parfums has a 169-year history. Within their store, they have portraits of their perfumers over the years and a nice collection of vintage perfume bottles from various houses, many of which I’ve read about online and never tried. I would like to learn more about Bourbon French’s history in greater detail – there is information on their website but I want to go deeper, peering into their account books and whatnot. Just thinking about it brings out the historian in me. I did my masters report on an 18th-century French female apothecary, who prepared herbs, medicine, and fragrant waters. The borders between these types of preparations were not very well demarcated in the 18th-century France, and thus I’d be curious to know more about the origins of this 19th-century American perfumery.

Enough about that. The shopping experience at Bourbon French was very nice. The sales associate was extremely enthusiastic and clearly someone with a wide-ranging passion for perfume in and out of her own store. She gave me lots of room to explore, while carrying on a great conversation. The perfumes at Bourbon French were grouped into several broad categories. The main two were soliflores and the house signature perfumes, each arranged on their own glass trays on the main counter (I wish I had taken pictures to show you!). On a separate counter were the house’s soaps (available in both a selection of the soliflore and signature perfumes) and the Lagniappe Oaks perfumes, a separate brand that is carried in the store (and with which I didn’t spend a great deal of time).

There were a number of perfumes and it was actually overwhelming to decide which I wanted to try. I had come in thinking that I would get a sample set of perfumes if one was available. And indeed they did have a choice of two pre-packaged sample sets, each including six perfumes in 1-dram rollerballs. So I was stuck deciding between the Fragrant Florals of the South set for $25 (including their Jasmine, Lily of the Valley, Magnolia, Olive Blossom, Plumeria, and White Gardenia) or the Bourbon French Collection for $35 (Kus Kus, La Pluie, Mon Amour, La Vie Nouvelle, Marguerite, and Perfume of Paradise). It was a hard choice, as I am a floral lover, but ultimately, upon sniffing the fragrances from the bottles, the Bourbon French Collection perfumes smelled a bit more well-rounded and complex. So I purchased that set, along with a frangipani soap that I have yet to try.

If you break down the Bourbon French Collection, half of the perfumes are roughly “fresh” and half are “warm.” Therefore, it’s a good way to get exposed to the range of scents that the house offers, with the caveat that the set doesn’t include many perfumes with a strongly floral character. I’ll review the fresh perfumes first, followed by the warm ones.

La Pluie: This name scared me a bit, as, like many perfumistas, aquatics are not necessarily my favorite category of fragrance. It is not really an aquatic. It is a lily of the valley scent. It’s quite soapy and laundry-fresh. La Pluie is also sharp and insistent, and probably my least favorite of the set.

La Vie Nouvelle: Again, it’s a clean, fresh scent, but much more interesting than La Pluie to my nose. The Bourbon French website says that it is a “White Tea fragrance with hints of Lily of the Valley and Tuberose.” In the beginning, I do get a pop of tea-like scent alongside clean florals. Then it becomes very soapy-musky. However, it’s not as sharp as La Pluie and more enjoyable.

Marguerite: Marguerite is, again, a soapy-fresh scent. It’s described on the Bourbon French website as a “A light, clean, spicy fragrance.” I actually rather enjoy this scent. It begins with a pop of aldehydes and dries to a soapy, spicy musk. I have to concur with EauMG’s review of this one: it is an extremely realistic, classic bar of soap scent. The nicest of the fresh scents by far.

Mon Amour: We have moved into the warm scents now. When you look at the fragrance list on Bourbon French’s website, it lists Mon Amour as a new scent. I actually found that somewhat surprising after having tried the perfume. The website gives the notes as vanilla, amber, black cherry and musk. The overall feel of this perfume is powdery, however. Upon hitting my skin, I smell vanilla extract and almost immediately a warm powder emerges. From the notes, you might think this is a gourmand fruity scent (and the fact that is is “new” might make you think it would lean that way as well). But if anything it makes me think of the nouveau-powdery trend we’ve seen over the last two years in department store perfume. It’s not a cosmetics powder scent; it’s more like baby powder + vanilla extract. As I write that, I know it doesn’t sound very good but the perfume is surprisingly enjoyable for what it is. 

Kus Kus: This perfume is probably the most fascinating of the set, insofar as Bourbon French says that this is one of the original perfumes created by their founder August Doussan in 1843. A bit of Googling will lead you to discover that another name for vetiver is “khus.” Kus Kus definitely has vetiver, but that’s not all it’s got. It’s not a vetiver soliflore. It’s a complex, powdery perfume. I’d say it’s bordering on oriental, but it’s oriental in a very old-fashioned powdery way – it’s not really spicy at all. I have a bit of trouble believing that this intensely warm vetiver-powder perfume is the same formula that’s been produced since 1843. I mean, maybe they’re not even pretending that it is. To me, this perfume has significant influences from the early 20th century and the powdery-orientals of that time. I think it’s a fairly sensual perfume. I very much admire it, but – and here I’m going to say something I almost never say – I almost feel that Kus Kus is a bit too old for me. I don’t mean it’s an “old-lady perfume.” UGH. No, I may just have a bit more living to do before this one fits me, I think.

Perfume of Paradise: This fragrance is inspired by Jennifer Blake’s romance novels, many of which (all of which??) are set in New Orleans. I can’t say that I’ve read any of these novels, but they do have quite steamy covers. I had read about Perfume of Paradise online before our trip and I had pegged it as something I had to try. It’s an aldehydic fragrance, and I am an aldehyde lover. When I wore this one for the first time, my husband asked me what smelled like sunscreen. Yes. This is an aldehydic sunscreen scent. It opens with warm aldehydes; they are not waxy or thick but more sparkling. The scent moves on into tropical white florals: I am horrible at this game, but I’d guess frangipani, jasmine, and gardenia as being among them. The flowers are leafy and warm and green. The drydown is warm and soapy. That seems to be a common element among the Bourbon French perfumes, actually: soap. This isn’t necessarily a bad thing: I actually love soapy scents, as long as they’re verging on traditional bar soap and not detergent. Anyway, Perfume of Paradise is by far my favorite of the perfumes in my sample set.

All in all, I felt I had a pretty good record with these perfumes. There were two that I would absolutely wear and enjoy: Kus Kus (yes, despite feeling a bit young for it) and Perfume of Paradise. There is one that I find very nice and would wear when I want to smell like vintage soap: Marguerite. There is one I think is fine but don’t predict I will wear a lot: Mon Amour. And there I will likely not wear very much: La Vie Nouvelle and La Pluie.

The overall feel with these perfumes is fairly vintage. Perfume of Paradise, which is based on romance novels of the 80s and 90s, instead has the feel of a 60s aldehydic perfume (Victoria agrees). Marguerite hearkens back to an older version of what “clean perfume” meant. Kus Kus evokes powdery orientals of the first half of the twentieth century. I appreciate the vintage sensibility. I should mention that these perfumes also don’t tend to have great lasting power for whatever reason. I tend to try to live with things a whole day when I am testing them and I found that I would carry the little rollerballs and reapply at lunch with most of these. I am not sure what concentration is in the sample set; when you buy the perfumes individually you can select from parfum, eau de toilette, or cologne.

I do think I made the right choice with the sampler set, but if and when we go back to New Orleans (when, God willing!) I think I will try to veer away from what is offered in the sampler sets and test more of the floral perfumes and things that appeal to me based on their notes. I don’t regret getting the sampler set and indeed I think I had a pretty good success rate with the set, but I do sort of wish I’d tried more things that I wanted to try instead of having the perfumes selected for me. In the meantime I’m also eyeing bath salts or body powder in Kus Kus and Perfume of Paradise from the Bourbon French website; the prices are very reasonable.

Quick Hits: Second mall run in one [holiday] weekend!

On weekends where we have my daughter (we share custody with my daughter’s dad), my husband (still feels a bit odd typing that!) and I always try to make sure each adult gets some time out of the house on their own. This labor day, I got to make my second mall run of the weekend (!!) while husband and daughter went to the park. Now, he’s out doing some work on the journal he edits, daughter and I just baked a cake, and she’s sitting down to color her coloring book while I blog.

I live kind of on the edge of Austin – an arrangement I’m not too pleased with and am hoping to change in the next year, but it does have the one advantage of being close to two fairly fancy shopping centers. On Saturday, I had gone to the closer of the two because it’s an outdoor mall with a splash pad – good for the preschool set. Today, I went to the mall that’s just a bit further but often has better perfume options: Saks and Sephora.  My whole trip was predicated on the hope of finding Guerlain Lys Soleia at Sephora, but no luck. The associate said they hadn’t had it in yet and that they just go the three “regular” Aqua Allegorias in a few weeks ago. So maybe I shouldn’t abandon hope? I wanted to try that one so badly – it sounds so up my alley. Here are my quick impressions of what I did find:

Cartier Baiser Volé in extrait: I loved the EDT that came out last year, particularly the green-lily top notes, and had toyed with buying a bottle of that, but ultimately decided that it faded into a wan musk a little too quickly for my tastes. I can confirm that the extrait solves this problem. It’s richer, a little dirtier, and the drydown is much better and sexier. At $200, it’s a non-starter for me at the moment, but it’ll go on the “maybe someday” wishlist. It’s really, really, really good.

Diorissimo, modern version: This is super-embarrassing to admit, but I’d never tried Diorissimo on skin. I know no one seems to like the modern version that’s available in stores. I thought maybe I’d do a lily throwdown with Baiser Volé  on one wrist and Diorissimo on the other. I think current Diorissimo is quite gorgeous! Exquisite, even. So, what am I missing? What was better about the original? My only complaint about the Diorissimo on my wrist right now is that the lasting power/diffusion is maybe not what I’d really like it to be. I get that it may be a different perfume than the vintage version, but current Diorissimo still beats out most other perfumes on the Saks counter.

Saks had four new Jo Malone perfumes I hadn’t tried, all of which were nice. First, the London Blooms collection, which I had never seen this past spring. Iris and Lady Moore struck me as a slightly more floral version of Prada Infusion d’Iris. Pretty, but perhaps not very original. Peony and Moss is really a fresh summer rose. I didn’t get the moss on card, but maybe that would emerge in time. White Lilac and Rhubarb was probably my personal least favorite, although it certainly seems like the most distinctive and original of the London Blooms. I think I really just can’t make up my mind on rhubarb as a note. The best new Jo Malone, I thought, was Blackberry and Bay. The juicy, slightly sour blackberry cut with the dry spice of bay is invigorating and supremely wearable. Only complaint: I put this one on skin and the lasting power isn’t great. I can barely smell the remnants of it right now. This struck me as a great harvest time perfume, but if I bought it, I’d need to carry it all day and keep reapplying. And my skin usually loves perfume, folks. Like, when people talk about “Scent of the Day” and “Scent of the Evening,” I’m always confused, because my Scent of the Day nine times out of ten lasts well into the evening. So, I’m not sure. Most likely will not be adding Blackberry and Bay to my collection, but I do think it’s an outstanding perfume.

Chanel Coco Noir: My expectations for this one were not high. The initial grapefruit blast really didn’t work for me; it almost verged on “sport cologne” territory. The soapy drydown is nice enough but is this really Chanel quality? nah. I might take it over Coco Mademoiselle, which I really despise.

Estee Lauder Pleasures Eau Fraiche: a new formulation of Pleasures. Seems genuinely greener. Nothing I need in my collection, but if you like original Pleasures, might be worth a try. Oh! And they had those crystal star solid perfumes in. So pretty.

Donna Karan Woman: The bottle images online looked interesting, but in person I think the bottle looks pretty cheap. I don’t know if I really “get” this one yet. I only smelled it on card. Something about it reminds me of the feel of a lot of the Hermès line under Jean-Claude Ellena: sort of a transparent citrus woods, very unisex and crystalline and well composed, but very much Not My Thing.

Lancôme La Vie Est Belle: The packaging for this one is genuinely gorgeous. I get the impression that I’m basically the target market for this one: women in their late twenties, early thirties, who have outgrown Viva La Juicy or what have you. Lancôme is not a line I generally have much of a connection with, and their current perfume line strikes me as supremely boring in most respects. I don’t like most of the perfumes and to be honest, most of their makeup either. Yet, I want to like La Vie Est Belle. That bottle. And it turns out it’s really not so bad. The Sephora associated pooh-poohed it as ripoff of Flowerbomb – and I barely know Flowerbomb well enough to say if that’s true, but I always thought Flowerbomb was more fruity and purple than toasted and pastry-like. La Vie Est Belle is like a floral pastry. I am really liking the creamy nuttiness of La Vie Est Belle, mixed with jasmine. The praline note is realistic and the jasmine is recognizably jasmine. It’s not a total sugarbomb – it strikes me as less intensely sweet than MADONNA PERFUME, for instance. I would purchase it over MADONNA PERFUME, for sure. Other than the with the the criminally underrated Magnifique, maybe Trésor, and maybe the Ô de Lancôme collection, this is probably my favorite Lancôme. (Disclaimer: I haven’t tried a lot of the classic Lancômes such as Climat.)  I predict it will do very well – unless it really is a Flowerbomb copycat.

Guerlain Le Petite Robe Noir: BOOM! Cherries. A really realistic black cherry top note. Smelling the card now, I don’t really smell much of anything. So, I don’t know. However, on the basis of the nice cherry top note, I had the Sephora associate make me a sample. So stay tuned. I doubt anything could top my cherry-perfume fave, Sweet Anthem Mary, though. Associate said they’d only had it in around two weeks and that it had been selling really well. Good for Guerlain.

A final FYI – Sephora had some rollerballs of Marchesa out, but it didn’t look like they were really for testing – one of the associates said the perfume was launching on Wednesday. So if you’re dying to try the debut Marchesa perfume, there you go.

So there’s the results of my latest mall run. This past week, I was profoundly moved by Brian’s post over at I Smell Therefore I am, entitled “If Fragrance is a Thing of Wonder, Why Do I Always Try to Put It Back in the Box?” I command you to go read it. Seriously, go read it right now. It echoed a lot of the unspoken frustration that I’ve been having with my blog reading lately, and also made me think about my own sniffing habits. In fact, my piece about Estee Lauder Sensuous yesterday was partially inspired by my desire to go back and revisit perfumes that are meaningful to me, and think about how they’ve grown with me. Sometimes I feel like my drive-by mall runs are a bit shallow. But, to be honest, the thrill of the hunt is part of what drives me. When I started this blog, I was determined to talk about the things that I really try and wear, which are mostly department-store or affordable-ish indie perfumes, instead of aspirational niche perfumes that I can’t afford. Shopping, the art of shopping and browsing, has always been one of my great pleasures in life. Yes, many of the impressions above are pretty ephemeral – but isn’t that the nature of our hobby? Will I really ever be able to spend 3-4 testing sessions with everything that hits Macy’s or Saks in a year? No.  Plus, more selfishly, writing in this way helps me keep track of what I’ve smelled and what I thought of it. So, I think I’ll keep writing about mall runs, with the caveat that you should always, always, always go spray Coco Noir for yourself, because it might just be your favorite perfume ever. And I’ll try to intersperse with more frequent thoughtful writing about my true favorites – I’m improving, no?