Amouage Opus III
Amouage Opus VAmouage Opus VI
Amouage TributeAnnick Goutal Encens Flamboyant
Annick Goutal Heure ExquiseAnnick Goutal Petite Cherie
Annick Goutal Sables
April Aromatics Calling All Angels
April Aromatics JasminaAt the Moment (Chanel 22 & Marshall Crenshaw)
At the Moment (Saki & Lubin Idole edt)At the Moment (Secret de Suzanne /D'Orsay L'Intrigante) At the Moment (Vera Wang & Fireman's Fair novel)
Ava Luxe Café NoirCarner Barcelona D600
Caron Aimez-MoiChantilly Dusting Powder
Clive Christian C for WomenComme des Garcons Daphne
Comme des Garcons LUXE ChampacaCostes by Costes
Creed Virgin Island WaterDeneuve
Devilscent ProjectGuerlain Aqua Allegoria Lys Soleia Guerlain Samsara Parfum How I Store Decants
Il Profumo CannabisKenzo Jungle l’Elephant
Kenzo SummerLa Via del Profumo Hindu Kush
La Via del Profumo Oud Caravan Project
Montale Black AoudNeila Vermeire Creations Bombay Bling
Nina Ricci L'Air du Temps
Nez a Nez Ambre a SadeOmar Sharif Pour Femme
Oriscent Pure Oud OilsParfum d'Empire Azemour
Parfum d'Empire Cuir OttomanParfumerie Generale Indochine
Parfums de Nicolai SacrebleuParis, je t'aime
Pascal Morabito Or BlackPuredistance Opardu
Ramon Monegal Cherry Musk
Robert Piguet Fracas Serge Lutens Borneo 1834
Serge Lutens BoxeusesSerge Lutens Un Lys Sonoma Scent Studio Voile de Violette
Sonoma Scent Studio Winter Woods (brief mention)
SoOud Ouris Parfum NectarStone Harbor, NJ Vacaton pix (non-perfume related)
Strange Invisible Perfumes Lyric RainTightly
Tokyo Milk Ex Libris
Vero Profumo Mito Viktoria Minya Hedonist
Viktor & Rolfe Flowerbomb
Links to Other Blogs I Enjoy
All I Am - A Redhead
A Perfume Blog (Blacknall Allen)
Another Perfume Blog (Natalie)
Australian Perfume Junkies
Beauty on the Outside
Bois de Jasmin
Bonkers About Perfume
Ca Fleure Bon
Eyeliner on a Cat
From Top to Bottom - Perfume Patter
Glass Petal Smoke
Grain de Musc
I Smell Therefore I Am
Katie Puckrik Smells
Memory of Scent
Memory & Desire
Muse in Wooden Shoes
My Perfume Life
Notes on Shoes, Cake & Perfume
Notes From Josephine
Notes From the Ledge
Now Smell This
Oh, True Apothecary!
Pieces of Paper, Squiggly Lines
Redolent of Spices
Riktig Parfym: Ramblings of a Fragrant Fanatic
Scents of Place
Scents of Self
Sorcery of Scent
Tea, Sympathy and Perfume
The Alembicated Genie
The Candy Perfume Boy
The French Exit
The Scented Hound
The Vintage Perfume Vault
This Blog Really Stinks
Undina's Looking Glass
WAFT by Carol
Amouage Opus IV: All That and More
Gonna tell you a story that you won’t believe
But I fell in love last Friday evenin’
With a girl I saw on a bar room TV screen
Well I was just gettin’ ready to get my hat
When she caught my eye and I put it back
And I ordered myself a couple o’ more shots and beers
She was five foot six and two fifteen
A bleach blonde bomber with a streak of mean
She knew how to knuckle and she knew how to scuffle and fight
And the roller derby program said
That she was built like a ‘fridgerator with a head
Her fans call her “Tuffy” but all her buddies call her “Spike”
—lyrics from Jim Croce’s song, "Roller Derby Queen" †
It’s really not fair of me to preface my review of Amouage Opus IV with the lyrics to Jim Croce’s “Roller Derby Queen.” Not fair to the perfume, that is. Opus IV is opulent and classy, and of all the perfumes in the opus series, this is the one that smells like the very place you’d expect to find an opus: it smells like a grand library, one with floor-to-ceiling bookcases constructed of rare hardwoods that have been polished to a high sheen with lemon oil, housing rare manuscripts printed on parchment and vellum, and where reading tables hold deep vases filled with roses. Or at least, that’s the way I imagine a very grand library to smell. My actual experience in that regard is somewhat limited. The grandest libraries I’ve ever been in have all been university libraries (which mostly means that they were large), and the most fragrant library I’ve ever encountered was in a monastery in Switzerland, where the books were all bound in leather and the parquet flooring was polished to a high sheen but creaked every time a step was taken across it. It was the noisiest wood floor I’ve ever encountered and I remember it well, because the monk who was giving the tour would address the American tourists first, in English, and then address the other tourists in German and French. As soon as the monk finished speaking in English, all of the American tourists began walking around the library, either not noticing or not caring that their movements made it impossible for the other tourists to hear. It was rather embarrassing to be among the Americans that day.
But getting back on topic—I started off this review with the lyrics to Roller Derby Queen for a reason, and it has to do with the absolutely ginormous opening that Opus IV delivers—an opening that is large even by Amouage standards, and which originally had me thinking that I probably wouldn’t be wearing, let alone reviewing, this perfume when I first tried it on last year. This is too big, even for me!, I thought on previous occasions, and then a couple months ago I tried it out again and found myself loving it and craving it the way I do most Amouage perfumes. And I probably wouldn’t have questioned this love—I probably would have written some gushing and overblown review, trying to connect this perfume to a grand theme—a review where we are not only in a grand library, but we are there with Barbara Streisand’s Yentl. Because that’s perfect, right? Yentl singing in her full-on, Barbara Streisand voice, in a library that is colossal and fragrant and the very source of empowerment … and my analogy dovetailing so nicely, not only with this particular opus perfume but with Amouage’s overall theme for the The Library Collection, in which these perfumes aim to “defy categorisation, transcend gender and allow the wearer to create their own unique narrative.”
Well, actually, yes, it would be perfect on many levels, but you know what? I haven’t stopped laughing since I read something at another blog last week—and that was Blacknall Allen’s delightfully witty essay about Amouage perfumes , in which she compares them to Maserati race cars, with their heavy horse-power openings that she finds overwhelming. And she’s right—so many of the Amouage fragrances are that way, and while I find them exhilarating, I can certainly understand how others might find them overwhelming or even beastly. I’m being truthful when I say that Opus IV smells like my idea of a grand library, yet I could just as convincingly couple it to Jim Croce’s roller derby queen. What’s for certain is that it’s a heavily-freighted fragrance and cacophonous to the point that it’s one of the more difficult Amouage perfumes to describe. Its opening smells mostly of industrial-strength lemon oil combined with an equally strong amount of coriander oil ... in a good way. Though the coriander has a spicy green smell that grows spicier over time, on initial application it reminds me of the collective smells of various wood polishes and flooring waxes I’ve have smelled in my day. Coupled with citrus notes of lemon, mandarin and grapefruit—and the sharp, pine-like aroma of elemi—Opus IV’s top notes make me think of wood, in spite of the fact that I’m not sure there’s a true wood note in the fragrance. By association, I imagine myself standing someplace where I smell the wood paneled walls of a library—or the waxed hardwood of a roller-derby rink of yore.
(The notes for Opus IV, by the way, are listed on the Amouage website as listed as top notes of coriander oil, lemon, mandarin and grapefruit; heart notes of elemi oil, cardamom, cumin, rose berries, rose, and violet leaves; and base notes of peru balsam, labdanum absolute, frankincense, animalic, and musk.)
As the heart and base notes emerge, Opus IV becomes spicy in a way that is hard to put one’s finger on. It’s not the kind of spice one associates with food or with Christmas potpourris: attended by a green astringency, this spiciness is something I can only describe in metaphorical terms as the olfactory equivalent of energy. Its vibration reminds me of the feeling of being in an elevated state, yet there is just enough of a lick of the animalic that when it collides with the spicy greenery, one detects an invigoratingly pagan vibe. Here is our roller derby queen bearing down on the competition!
This excitement goes on for hours, and then as it dries down I get more library than roller derby queen. There is a quiet waft of rose that softens this perfume—and a light vanilla aroma that issues from the Peru balsam and lends a cottony smell to the scent, reminding me of the smell of good cotton paper. The green notes never fully depart and gently fade out in a way that makes them smell woody. Though I’ve read some mini reviews at some of the online fragrance forums which speak of the animalic and musk notes being prominent—to the point of making the wearer feel like he or she smells unwashed—there are just as many that agree with my own assessment: these “unclean” notes are not very pronounced. I suppose it depends on skin chemistry, but to my nose, Opus IV in its far dry down stage smells like good paper, wood, spice, a little incense, with the animalic notes giving the faint impression of something aged—a light mustiness that is nuanced and fits well into the overall scent scheme.
The library scent scheme, of course. That said, if the animalic notes were heavier and this perfume really did smell like a roller derby queen, I’d probably still love it. There are some things I will always be attracted to: long-legged men, 70s music and really big perfumes. These are the things that make my world go round and round—and my small life seem infinitely larger.
Amouage Opus IV eau de parfum can be purchased from LuckyScent.com; $325 for 100-ml. My review is based on a sample I acquired from the Sens Unique boutique in Paris, as a free gift with purchase, last year.
Into the Cider House with Slumberhouse Rume
Homer Wells held Candy around her hips—to help her off the roof. They must have known it was precarious to kiss on top of the cider house; it was more dangerous for them on the ground. They were standing together, arms loosely around each other's waists—his chin touching her forehead (she was shaking her head, No, No, but just a little)—when they both became aware that the lights from Wally's room were out. They leaned against each other as they walked to the cider house, the tall grass clutching at their legs.
They were careful not to let the screen door bang. Who could have heard it? They preferred the darkness; because they did not reach for the light switch in the kitchen, they never came in contact with the cider house rules that were tacked next to it. Only the palest flashes of the heat lightning showed them the way to the sleeping quarters, where the twin rows of iron beds stood with their harsh springs exposed—the old mattresses rolled in Army barracks fashion at the foot of each bed. They unrolled one.
It was a bed that had held many transients. The history of the dreams encountered upon that bed was rich. The small moan that caught in the back of Candy's throat was soft and difficult to hear above the iron screeching of the bed's rusted springs; the moan was as delicate in that fermented air as the fluttery touch of Candy's hands, lighting like butterflies upon Homer's shoulders, before he felt her hands grip him hard—her fingers sinking in as she held him tight. The moan that escaped her then was sharper than the grinding bed springs and nearly as loud as Homer's own sound. Oh, this boy whose crying had once been a legend upriver in Three Mile Falls—oh, how he could sound! †
The above excerpt is from John Irving’s The Cider House Rules—a novel I’ve referenced on previous occasions and will no doubt draw upon again someday, as it’s a book I revere above all others—not only for the colossal beauty of its richly intricate story but because, in studying its characters, I see how one might learn to move through the world with dignity and compassion. Every conceivable form of love (and every side of love) is examined in this book, but the passage above pertains, of course, to the central love affair between Homer Wells, a young man who grew up in a Maine orphanage (under the fatherly care of Doctor Wilbur Larch, obstetrician, abortionist and overseer of the St. Clouds orphans) and Candy Kendall, the beautiful daughter of a lobsterman and steady girlfriend of Homer’s friend Wally Worthington. At Wally’s invitation, Homer has been living with him and his parents at their apple orchard on the Maine coast, learning the apple farming business. Because he also has been tagging along on Wally and Candy’s dates, he has become quite close with the couple: it’s why he has kept his feelings for Candy secret for a long time, and it’s also why, when these feelings are finally revealed—and Homer learns that Candy has unexpectedly been falling for him, too—they are held at bay, mostly. When Wally enlists in the Air Force (after Pearl Harbor is bombed), it’s harder for them to stifle their feelings, but they manage it, largely at Candy’s insistence, because, as she tells Homer, she has “grown up loving Wally” and expected to marry him—and she hadn’t foreseen falling in love with Homer too. But if she’s confused over who she really loves, that confusion starts to fall away when Wally’s long absence—coupled with his eagerness to go to war and his breezily impersonal letters home—leave her feeling abandoned. So, by the time we arrive at this point in the story—this turning point where Wally’s plane has been shot down over Burma and he has gone missing for over a month—there is little to keep Candy and Homer’s bayed up feelings from erupting.
Candy Kendall clung to Homer Wells—oh, how she clung!—as the breath left them both and stirred the otherwise unmoving air. And the trembling mice beneath the floor of the cider house stopped in their tracks between the cider house walls to listen to the lovers. The mice knew there was the owl to worry about, and the fox. But what animal was this whose sound was petrifying them? The owl does not hoot when it hunts, and the fox does not bark when it pounces. But what is this new animal? wondered the cider house mice—what new beast has charged and disturbed the air?
And is it safe? †
In the magical way that John Irving writes, lots of other things are happening as Candy Kendall and Homer Wells make love in the cider house, a dormitory-like cabin that is vacant except for in autumn, when it houses the migrant workers who pick the apples and also the machine they use (the press) to turn the unsellable apples into cider. The cider house, throughout Irving’s long tale, has a mood about it—and at another place in the book its aroma is described too. When it becomes the place where Candy and Homer embark on their course of love, the reader knows what kind of love this is: the kind that won’t ever find a cushy bed and a safe resting place. But the truth at the heart of this novel (expressed by the story’s other main character, Dr. Larch, just a beat or two later) is that no love relationship—romantic, parental or otherwise—is ever safe; yet it is our job to love, anyway.
* * *
This past weekend, I received a package of perfume samples from my friend Ann (of Perfume Posse). After opening it, I returned the samples to their respective plastic bags and to the mailing envelope, as I was stepping out for the evening. When I came home, my husband and I sniffed the air: had someone been smoking a pipe in our house? I traced the aroma to the package and decided the smell must be the papier d’Armenie that Ann had sent me. Wow, strong stuff, I thought, removing it and taking it upstairs to use as a sachet at the deep bottom of a dresser drawer. Hours later (even the next day later), I kept smelling the tobacco-like odor coming from the package on my kitchen counter—and now I was really paying attention to it, for the air in the house had gotten warmer and this aroma was unsettling. It smelled not only of tobacco, but of smoky, winey apples: apples that have gotten fermented and vinegar-like around the edges. This smell was sweet, sour, dry and sticky all at once—a rustic smell, a sexual smell, and quite expansive. That’s when I took each sample out, one by one, and quickly realized that the aroma was coming from a single milliliter of perfume that was tagged with the name Slumberhouse Rume.
Slumberhouse is an indie perfume brand out of Portland, Oregon—and Rume, though it only launched last year, has already been discontinued. The perfumer chose to discontinue it, feeling it wasn’t up to snuff with his expectations. Perhaps that was a wise choice—Rume is not an easy scent to wear, but smelling it has been riveting. In his promotional material for Rume, Josh Lobb, perfumer and owner of the brand, described it as “Inspired by a room – the explorer’s hideaway. A burgundy/silver cologne with animalic pulse paired alongside a warm hush of clay, cola, filbert and hay. Rume is an idea, communicated through fragrance, of the desire to constantly seek out, experience and explore. An idea that contentedness is a poison and regret is the aftermath.”
I was dumbfounded when I found this description because, by then, I’d already decided I was going to write about Rume—as a room. The sleeping room in the cider house, on an August night in the 1940s, when it is deserted except for two people who have given permission to themselves to seek each other out. Rume is that room, with its intense air of tobacco, old apple cider, aged cedarwood and sex. (Sex, not because Rume smells indolic, but because there is a clove-like spice that adds heat to the fermented apple juice smell, and somehow this translates as sex to my brain). It is a linear perfume—much like commitment itself: unwavering and all-consuming.
Slumberhouse Rume has notes of bay, myrrh, labdanum and praline. Launched in early 2012 and originally carried at Indiescents.com, it has since been discontinued. I’m not sure a bottle of it can even be found anymore but I decided to review it anyway. Hopefully, my reason is obvious: it was simply too compelling a scent to pass up. My deepest thanks to Ann for sending me her sample.
†The Cider House Rules, copyright © 1985 by Garp Enterprises, Ltd. (William & Morrow Company, Inc., New York, 1985, pp. 379-380 & 381)
Images: Charlize Theron as Candy Kendall in the 1999 film version of The Cider House Rules, which was quite disappointing to me. The film does no justice to Irving's complex and stunning novel.
Posted by Suzanne Keller, 5/8/2013.
Ouris Parfum Nectar: Peachy Keen Skin, Distractingly Soft
I don’t think I’ve ever seen a more beautiful April than the one we had this year in central Pennsylvania. As I sit here typing this, we’re getting a much needed rain shower, but last week I was wearing shorts as I re-seeded my lawn and went on my daily runs. While I’m fully enjoying the beauty of spring and not trying to rush the season, part of that enjoyment is the anticipation of summer: already I can’t wait to renew my pool membership, haul my lawn furniture out of storage, and go on a little shopping trip for sandals. Maybe because I’m in that kind of mood, the perfume I’ve been wearing like crazy lately has been Ouris parfum nectar from SoOud Perfumes. Ouris is the very essence of summer because it reminds me of one of the things I love most about that season: lots of creamy bare skin on display.
Not that Ouris smells like skin, per se. It actually smells like peaches and cream: the most natural, sun-ripened peach you can imagine combined with a base accord that is so überly creamy, it reminds me of cool, unsalted butter. Ouris could easily be classified as a gourmand, but because its subtle sillage hovers close to the body and is coupled to this composition that makes me think of a peaches-and-cream complexion, Ouris thus becomes (for me) an olfactory representation of beautiful summer skin. Clean, soft, feminine skin that has been gently kissed by an expensive French tanning lotion. By way of these associations, wearing it makes me feel quite pretty in a girly kind of way—it’s the kind of perfume that has me longing to pull out my favorite sundresses and paint my toenails a delicate shade of pink.
While Ouris’s overall vibe is more lighthearted than sultry (there is nothing overly ripe or juicy or suggestive about this perfume), its base of orris butter, vanilla, sandalwood and tonka has such a buttery smoothness to it, I can’t help but view it as sensual. This is one of those perfumes that manages to be sweet and sexy at the same time…it evokes skin, and all of the pleasures of skin, but there is still an air of innocence about it. Trying to come up with an analogy for it, I found myself thinking of John Updike’s famous short story, “A & P”, about a nineteen-year-old guy who is working the cash register of a small-town grocery store when three girls come wandering in in their bathing suits. Remember that story? One of the girls was chunky, but had “a good tan and a sweet broad soft-looking can with those two crescents of white just under it, where the sun never seems to hit, at the top of the backs of her legs.” Then there was another girl who was tall and not bad looking, apart from her frizzy hair and long chin. Ahhh, but then there was “the third one, that wasn’t quite so tall. She was the queen”:
She kind of led them, the other two peeking around and making their shoulders round. She didn't look around, not this queen, she just walked straight on slowly, on these long white prima donna legs. She came down a little hard on her heels, as if she didn't walk in her bare feet that much, putting down her heels and then letting the weight move along to her toes as if she was testing the floor with every step, putting a little deliberate extra action into it. You never know for sure how girls' minds work (do you really think it's a mind in there or just a little buzz like a bee in a glass jar?) but you got the idea she had talked the other two into coming in here with her, and now she was showing them how to do it, walk slow and hold yourself straight.
She had on a kind of dirty-pink—beige maybe, I don't know— bathing suit with a little nubble all over it and, what got me, the straps were down. They were off her shoulders looped loose around the cool tops of her arms, and I guess as a result the suit had slipped a little on her, so all around the top of the cloth there was this shining rim. If it hadn't been there you wouldn't have known there could have been anything whiter than those shoulders. With the straps pushed off, there was nothing between the top of the suit and the top of her head except just her, this clean bare plane of the top of her chest down from the shoulder bones like a dented sheet of metal tilted in the light. I mean, it was more than pretty.†
Updike’s quiet little story of defiance might be viewed as quaint, considering that it was written in 1961, but it still engages me every time I read it—and I think it gives an idea of what kind of fragrance Ouris is when I say that it's the olfactory equivalent of this girl whom Updike’s protagonist refers to as Queenie. Those last two sentences that I excerpted: yes, that’s the perfect summation for this perfume nectar, but for those who like a more concrete perfume description, I’ll try and provide a little more detail.
The fragrance notes for Ouris include peach, plum, blackcurrant, honey, tagete, jasmine, white cedar, pollen accord, almond, iris butter, vanilla, sandalwood, tonka. I don’t smell the fruit notes individually—to my nose, the prominent scent is that of peach, and the little bit of plum that I can detect seems to underscore the peach and give it a bit of warmth and weight. That said, Ouris is anything but weighty—if I’m to believe the press material, Ouris translates as “sublime” in Arabic, and sublime is a fitting physical description. A soufflé of peaches and sandalwood cream, touched by an almond note that makes Ouris smell a bit like coconut. It has a nuanced air of the tropical about it, which is the other reason I view it as a summery scent and why I see it as being more than just pretty.
Because I recently reviewed another perfume that I described as smelling like peaches and sunkissed skin, you might be wondering, how does Ouris compare with Viktoria Minya's Hedonist? I love them both but they’re as different as night and day, as Hedonist’s peach note is juicier, riper, and sultrier than the peach in Ouris. Overall, Hedonist is a fragrance that is deeper and more honeyed and straight-on sexy than Ouris. The latter is still a little bit innocent—or at least, poised to make you think that it is. Perhaps you’ll change your mind when you get close to it, for as lightweight and carefree as Ouris seems, it certainly knows how to command one’s attention.
SoOud Ouris Parfum Nectar is available from LuckyScent.com, where a 30-ml bottle is $185. (There is also an “eau fine” version of Ouris which is equivalent to an eau de parfum, in terms of concentrations, while the “parfum nectar” is the parfum/extrait version) My review is based on a decant provided by my perfume blogging friend Jasia Julia Nielsen. (Thank you, J!)