A More Affordable Olfactionary
Amouage Interlude Man
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 Bohemian SpiceApril Aromatics Jasmina
At the Moment (Chanel 22 & Marshall Crenshaw)
At the Moment (Secret de Suzanne /D'Orsay L'Intrigante) At the Moment (Vera Wang & Fireman's Fair novel)
Ava Luxe Café Noir
Carner 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
Gucci Eau de Parfum Gucci L'Arte di Gucci Guerlain Aqua Allegoria Lys Soleia Guerlain Samsara Parfum
How I Store Decants
Il Profumo Cannabis
Kenzo Jungle l’Elephant
Kenzo SummerLa Via del Profumo Hindu Kush
La Via del Profumo Milano Caffe
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 OttomanParfum d'Empire 3 Fleurs Parfumerie Generale Indochine
Parfums de Nicolai SacrebleuParfums Retro Grand Cuir
Paris, je t'aime
Pascal Morabito Or Black
Ramon Monegal Cherry Musk
Robert Piguet Fracas
Serge Lutens Borneo 1834
Serge Lutens Boxeuses
Serge 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 RainThe Diary of a Nose, Book Review
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
Giovanni Sammarco (artisanal perfumer) blog
Grain de Musc
I Smell Therefore I Am
Katie Puckrik Smells
Memory of Scent
Muse in Wooden Shoes
Natural Perfumery by Salaam
Notes on Shoes, Cake & Perfume
Notes From Josephine
Notes From the Ledge
Now Smell This
Oh, True Apothecary!
Purple Paper Planes
Redolent of Spices
Riktig Parfym: Ramblings of a Fragrant Fanatic
Scents of Place
Scents of Self
Sorcery of Scent
The Alembicated Genie
The Candy Perfume Boy
The Fragrant Man
The French Exit
The Perfume Magpie
The Scented Hound
The Sounds of Scent
The Vintage Perfume Vault
This Blog Really Stinks
Undina's Looking Glass
WAFT by Carol
I often think my interest in seeking out new perfumes has reached its natural conclusion, and then something will happen that snaps me back, like a yo-yo, to perfume’s obsessive hold over me. It happened last week in the form of a cold—a cold I thought I’d licked but which proved otherwise when I sampled a perfume I’d never tried before. I was intent on trying Frederic Malle Dans Tes Bras—something about being sick usually puts me in a state of mind where I want to smell the oddball scents, or maybe being sick simply reminded me of Dans Tes Bras, because one of the most compelling reviews I’d ever read of it likened it to “a really cute nosebleed.” What does that smell like? I wondered. If you could draw a picture of it, what would it look like? My brain having finally surfaced from its groggy, cold-induced state was itching to know. First I had this picture in my head of the characters Lena and Barry in Punch Drunk Love (due to their endearingly macabre pillow talk), and then a few other visions that seemed more normal (like how when you really love someone, there is something cute about them even when they’re not well and perhaps having a nosebleed). So after thinking on this some, I found my recently acquired sample of Dans Tes Bras, applied several sprays, and then … nothing. Not a thing! I could smell my supper cooking for the first time in days, but I couldn’t smell Dans Tes Bras and this made me panic a little. For no other reason than I thought I was anosmic to it on a day when smelling it seemed essential.
Essential to what, you might ask. Essential to experiencing life again, I guess.
Luckily it was only the remnants of illness that kept me from smelling Dans Tes Bras (and not my anosmia to certain musk-based perfumes, which I originally feared was the case). A few days later, after applying one big spritz to the fleshiest portion of my upper arm, voila! There it was in all its strangeness. It’s progression on my skin went like this: At the start, a weird though not unpleasant scent resembling a combo of starchy banana, the ink cartridge from a copy machine and violets. Five minutes later, the development of something delicately powdery and vanillic, as if it’s about to pretty itself up, even though it never truly does. It’s more accurate to say that Dans Tes Bras entertains a notion of pulchritude (a tendril of vanillic powder is always present) as it continues to offer up a mix of industrial- and natural-smelling aromas, the variety of which bears the stamp of Steampunk (or a simplistic version of Steampunk, if such a thing is possible). In addition to the aforementioned odors, Dans Tes Bras exudes whiffs of metal and ozone and hints of mushroom, as well as the growing medium for mushrooms—an oddly-cool dirt smell that is lacking in true earthiness, such that I’m tempted to call it ghost dirt. And at its center, occupying a lot of territory in Dans Tes Bras, there’s an accord that resembles Johnson’s Baby Shampoo. It’s a defining accord, one that inspires affection as it nostalgically evokes the bath-time rituals of youth or recalls the scent of a child’s scalp (a favorite smell for many women). To me, it’s what puts the “cute” in the “cute nosebleed” description that the other reviewer (Victoria of EauMG) ascribed to this scent. Not because it makes one think of kids, but because it is an olfactory form of shorthand linking one to the feeling of affection. (Different from “love,” affection, by my definition, refers to the pure and uncomplicated feeling of being naturally drawn to a person or thing. It inspires the word cute—a descriptor I consider ageless, which is why I might apply it to a kitten, in one breath, and a good-looking guy in his 50s, in the other).
It’s obvious that perfumer Maurice Roucel took a very thoughtful approach to this composition as he attempted (in his own words) “to communicate both seduction and generosity” in a fragrance meant to convey the feeling of being in a loved one’s embrace (Dans Tes Bras is French for “In Your Arms”). That said, while Dans Tes Bras is compelling to me as a study of perfume—I love the beauty of the attempt, I love the odd elements that make it an intrigue and not simply a copy of other “skin scents”—it doesn’t hang together for me as a whole. Even though my cold is gone and I can now smell Dans Tes Bras, I feel anosmic to it unless I’m actively parsing its notes. From afar, it becomes amorphous—its individual components unable to fuse into anything that has olfactory weight or distinguishable presence to my nose. Its fragrance profile as whole becomes indeterminate.
Smelling it up close and with an analytic mind, it's intriguing and what I’d call the work of a genius. Smelling it afar: forgettable and almost non-existent. So would I ever purchase this scent?
Hmmm. Concurrent with sampling of Dans Tes Bras, I happened to be reading Michael Ondaatje’s novel Divisadero—a work containing elements that leave my reading mind besotted: the poetic rendering of its prose; the tender way Ondaatje peels back the layers of his characters to reveal truths that are as universal as they are deeply personal. And yet I felt disappointed near the end of it, as Divisadero never gels as a novel. It’s written in an elliptical style, with characters whose lives and motivations are revealed in the same way an evening landscape in summer is illuminated by heat lightning: in brief strokes which dazzle but don’t grant much in the way of purchase. Lacking a true narrative that takes the reader on some kind of journey from one distinctive plane to another, Divisadero will likely vanish from my memory a year from now, whereas Ondaatje’s The English Patient will exist for me ad infinitum—certain passages always humming in my brain, making me reach for it whenever I’m in wont of a story that charts a course through the strange desert that is love.
Still. I’ve read a whole bunch of books this year, most of them with dependable story lines, and almost none of them as satiating on an emotional and intellectual level as Divisadero. And while I am far luckier in the perfume department (thanks to samples that come by way of friends who know my tastes), Dans Tes Bras is one of the most fascinating scents I’ve ever studied. Neither is what I think they set out to be: Divisadero, by its end, reads more like a contemplation on the writing life, its motivation and muses, its rewards and privations and quiet way of shaping a life; and Dans Tes Bras was certainly not conceived as an exercise or study in olfactory creation, yet it smells more like an homage to the art of perfumery than like perfumery’s end product. Both will pass from my memory sooner rather than later, but in the vast ocean of things I consume regularly, these are the two things that recently gave me sustenance.
Frederic Malle Dans Tes Bras eau de parfum was created by perfumer Maurice Roucel, with notes of Cashmeran, sandalwood, musk, patchouli, salicylates, incense, heliotrope and violet. It can be purchased from the Editions de Parfums Frederic Malle website and boutiques (or at Barneys New York), where it is currently priced at $180 for a 50-ml bottle or $265 for a 100-ml bottle. My review is based on a sample I acquired from Barneys.
Photo of the couple embracing can be found at various Internet sites; photographer unknown by me.
Photo of Dans Tes Bras bottle is from the Frederic Malle website, where it can be purchased.
Posted by Suzanne Keller, 10/7/2014.
(With reviews of By Kilian "Forbidden Games" & "In the City of Sin" perfumes)
What is it about this time of year that tugs on my rural heartstrings so? I sometimes wonder if it’s coded in my DNA, this irrepressible pull that comes from slant of sun, change of air, the palpable movement of birds and animals as they prepare to migrate or hibernate, and the weightiness of the harvest—the almost sexual smell of plants and trees that are weighted down with their fruits. On my daily runs through the fields near my house, the corn is ripening and now exudes an odor that smells milky, almost musky, like ambergris. Windfall apples lying in the dew-drenched, late-summer grass have a vinegary sweetness that attracts bees as they ferment, and the tomatoes, peppers and cantaloupes heaped up in bins at the farm-stand waft their respective odors—piquant, sharp and honeyed—into the mix. From a culinary standpoint, this is the highpoint of the year. With such an array of fresh produce, cooking and eating become acts that are decidedly more easy, direct and sensual, and underscoring this immediacy and sensuality is the arrival of peaches.
In central Pennsylvania, the best peaches are harvested in August from ridge-top acreage that speaks of the romantic nature of the fruit. (In the same way that one of my favorite movie characters—Miles from Sideways—once spoke in tender terms of the fragile and delicate nature of pinot grapes, I hold peaches in similar esteem.) Peaches are high-altitude beauties, requiring the chill and brisk ventilation of mountain air, as well as a kissing closeness to the sun and summer heat. They are juicy, fleshy, in-the-moment fruits that don’t store well. Sure, they can be canned and frozen, but they lose some of their identity in the process; whereas an apple in cold storage continues to taste, in every aspect, like an apple, whether you eat it in September or February, the ripeness of peaches is an acute matter: To my mind, they are the fruit most tied to a sense of place, because while they can be shipped cold to the supermarkets and left to ripen later, they never taste the way they do when you buy them locally. When peaches ripen in my part of Pennsylvania, it is the end of summer and you’d better be paying attention, as their season is short. Of course, their incredibly soft and succulent beauty will ensure that you do.
Given my reverence for peaches, I’m a sucker for perfumes that feature this fruit in an upfront way. This includes two perfumes which didn’t get much love from the perfumista community, and this review isn’t likely to change that, because there’s no way to describe the first perfume with a straight face. But that doesn’t mean it isn’t beautiful (I think it is) so here we go.
First up is By Kilian Forbidden Games, a perfume that is the olfactory equivalent of saying, “We shouldn’t like peach this much, or admit that we do, but how can we stop? Let’s engage in as much peach as we can and hope we get over ourselves tomorrow.” It’s the Leann Womack, There’s More Where That Came From anthem to sinful fruit: an indulgent, straight-up capitulation to peach born out of familiarity, on one hand, and a sense of on-the-sly foreignness on the other. Forbidden Games smells like a fresh peach at the height of it sweet-and-juicy ripeness, only multiplied—as if you heaped sliced peaches in a bowl, stirred sugar and cinnamon into them, and let the magic of these simple ingredients do their work. In the same way that sugar draws the juice from peaches and creates a syrup, making them seem even peachier, there are plum and floral notes that add the kind of depth and sweetness that make Forbidden Games smell like a hyperreal peach. (There is also a honey note, which I can’t say I detected on its own, but its inclusion no doubt contributes to the luscious syrup around this peach.)
A fine dusting of spice in this perfume lends Forbidden Games a push-pull vibration: the under-the-covers warmth of cinnamon is joined by what smells like the piquant uplift of cardamom. However, as cardamom isn’t listed in the notes, this piquancy might be attributable to the perfume’s listed note of apple. (Apple, peach, plum, cinnamon, Bulgarian rose, geranium bourbon, jasmine, vanilla, honey and opoponax are the official notes.) All I can say for certain is that there is an accent of something fizzy and slightly tart that adds a mouthwatering bit of acidic bite, and it’s what imbues this perfume with a sense of aliveness. Forbidden Games might be a simple perfume, but it’s a simple perfume with ingenious accents: its deft amount of cinnamon doesn't allow the perfume to cross over to peach pie territory but instead maintains a hush-hush glow about it. And that little bite of apple is so teasing, while the plum adds depth. My only disappointment in Forbidden Games is a slight one: in its far-drydown stage, some four or five hours into wear, it develops a faint laundry-musk smell that is a bit lackluster, but also understandable and forgivable. A richer base would subsume the peach, whereas this lighter one acts like a springboard that keeps the peach so fresh, lusty and alive.
By Kilian In the City of Sin is the other perfume I love from this line, and what I perceive as its peach note is actually an apricot note, according to the perfumer. This peachy apricot takes time to develop on the skin and is surrounded by layers of beautiful trappings. In the City of Sin smells far more complex and, at the same time, far more svelte than Forbidden Games, simply because there is no punch of juicy-fun sweetness here. Despite its risqué name, this isn’t the joy of peach, laid up and waiting for you in the hotel room, but the drier, quieter, more cosmetic beauty we’ll call by her true name—apricot—who is wandering the mysterious, twilit city streets. In the top notes stage, a lightly minty and woody bit of vinery wraps around the fruit, which in the first ten minutes after application is more plum than apricot. (And the lightly mentholated vinery that I smell isn’t accounted for in the perfume’s notes of bergamot, pink peppercorn, cardamom, apricot, plum, rose absolute, incense, cedar wood, patchouli and white musk accord.) A brisk and fizzy combo of bergamot, pink pepper and cardamom imparts a feeling of shimmer and excitement to this olfactory canvas, and as this opening accord is met by the red wine-like notes of plum and rose, the beautiful yet more sérieuse nature of these deeper notes has me envisioning a femme fatale who has made her way into the scent. This latter effect is enhanced by the slow developing apricot note, which has a peach-like fleshiness that is more delicate than an outright peach note, but still conjures up notions of sensuality. Rather interestingly, there is nothing in this perfume that smells animalic, overly fleshy, or blowsy and about to lose all control. Quite the opposite, in fact; it smells like ripe fruits given a champagne treatment that has rendered them shimmery, elegant and more suave than sweet. A light incense note keeps this fruited champagne on the dry side while imparting lift, and there is enough cedarwood and patchouli in the base accord that the perfume comes off as lean and sultry. In the City of Sin is not so much about sin as it is about temptation and the lure of beauty. I’ve never been to Las Vegas, but when I picture it, I think of long-legged showgirls, twinkling lights and champagne bottles delivered on silver trays to a cushy hotel rooms. And in that regard, this perfume is right on the money.
By Kilian Forbidden Games eau de parfum and In the City of Sin eau de parfum can be purchased at Luckyscent.com, either in the beautiful white perfume flacons (that come with an equally gorgeous white case) for $245 for 50 ml, or in the plain 50-ml refill bottle for $145. My reviews are based on samples I received from the lovely Undina (who is also a fan of In the City of Sin) and from Saks Fifth Avenue in San Francisco.
Photo credits: "Peaches and Window" (used here by permission) was photographed by Renee Kohlman and first appeared in her exquisite food blog, Sweetsugarbean.com, in her September 2013 post on baked peaches. All rights to this image are hers. (Thank you, Renee.)
Photo of the By Kilian In the City of Sin perfume bottle is from Luckyscent.com.
Posted by Suzanne Keller, 9/12/2014.
A Package from Christos: Greek Sandals and Montale Oud Cuir d'Arabie
Well, I've never been to England
But I kinda like the Beatles
Well, I headed for Las Vegas
Only made it out to Needles
Can you feel it?
Must be near it
Feels so good
Oh, it feels so good
– lyrics from the 70s Three Dog Night hit, "Never been to Spain" †
The oldies radio station that I listen to in my car has been reminding me recently that I’ve “Never Been to Spain.” Well, I’ve never been to Greece either, but I kinda dig their sandals – and that’s a statement I can make genuinely, thanks to my friend and fellow perfume blogger, Christos (who spent his whole life in Greece until last year, when he moved to Geneva). Christos wrote a fascinating review last summer of Montale Oud Cuir d’Arabie, in which he likened it to the smell of the touristy summer sandals sold on the streets of Athens (here’s the link), and in it he touched on the sandals made by Stavros Melissinos, “the Poet Sandal-Maker of Athens,” whose sandals have been purchased by Jacqueline Kennedy Onassis, John Lennon, Sarah Jessica Parker and many others. They aren’t expensive sandals, but they are like poems: lightweight, airy and elegant, with an emphasis on lines: arabesque-like lines of leather that loop around toes and twine up legs, making the wearer look more graceful and long-limbed. I can vouch for this because Christos very recently gave me a gift of these sandals and they arrived just in time for my beach vacation, where I wore them and got the admiring thumbs-up from the women in my family, as well as my husband. Christos gave me the Maria Callas version (so-named because they were originally designed for her; if you peruse the Poet Sandalmaker’s website you can see the others), which have long ties that crisscross halfway up my calves and are what I think of as classically Greek in terms of their look. Though I wondered if the ties would make the shoes uncomfortable, I was surprised to find they didn’t. The leather is still new enough that I have to tie them tight, in order that the bow doesn’t come undone, and for a minute or two they feel a little too snug, as if they might bite into my legs’ circulation, but it literally is only a couple minutes. Christos says the leather will darken over time, and I imagine it will also become more pliable, but even as they are now, they are remarkably comfortable for a shoe that offers up such distinctive beauty.
Beauty and comfort aside, the real reason these sandals are a treasured gift – and the reason I started this post with the lyrics of the Three Dog Night song – is that I believe Christos gave them to me as a way of giving me a piece of Greece. That’s an assumption on my part; he originally suggested to me, in the comments section of his post, that he hoped I could do a side-by-side comparison of the scent of the sandals next to Oud Cuir d’Arabie. Consciously or not, I think he also sent them because he knows how much I've enjoyed his perfumed writing that relates to his homeland – and that’s what these sandals evoke for him in a very concrete way. Greek sandals displayed on the facades of tourist shops are a ubiquitous sight (and scent!) in Christos’s native city, and have been for so long that they are no longer a trend but something that has become iconic. He notes that these sandals are enjoying popularity again with Greek natives, not only the tourists, and that development seems really right to me. True, I’ve never been to Greece, but my impression is that tourism is a deeply embedded part of Athens’ existence, in the same way that it is part and parcel of all ancient and beautiful cities of the world.
Like any tourist, armchair or otherwise, I think of the sea when I think of Greece, and there is a strong whiff of it in the leather of these sandals. To Christos, the leather of these sandals and the leather scent of Montale Oud Cuir d’Arabie smells briny in a very specific way: like feta cheese brine. I’m not as familiar with that particular smell as he is, but I do get brine: the leather of the sandals smells like sea kelp to me. It reminds me of Nori, the edible seaweed that is used to wrap sushi rolls, with its odor that speaks of fish and chlorophyll and a light amount of sulfur. This Nori seaweed smell doesn’t overtake the scent of the leather in the sandals, but it definitely infuses it. You could say it makes the leather smell tangy (in a way that does recall the salty tang of brined cheese, although in my head I get more of a true sea brine than cheese brine). I’ve had a similar seaweed scent show up in raw silk sweaters I've purchased, and there the scent was not pleasant the way it is with the sandals. Leather is such a yummy smell, it even smells good when imprinted by this briny odor.
Speaking of which, if there is any perfume that can be said to be straight-up leather and more leather, it is Montale Oud Cuir d’Arabie. I’m always surprised when I read comments or reviews on the various perfume forums describing this as a very raw and animalic because it doesn’t wear that way on me. True, it starts off with a top-notes stage that affects the same briny air as the Greek sandals, and there is a gentle animalic whiff of something inky and urinous too, but that stage is short-lived. Almost immediately this perfume deepens, sweetens and smoothes out into a very supple leather that is the equivalent for me of being cradled in a leather sofa. Similar to Christos, I get a lightly sweet, beeswax aroma in Oud Cuir d’Arabie as it develops, and after rather scrupulous study of the perfume this week, I wonder if that smell might evolve from a mix of heliotrope and iris. Montale provides only the sketchiest list of notes for this perfume, which they cite as tobacco, leather and burnt wood notes, but I’d be willing to bet that heliotrope is part of Oud Cuir d’Arabie’s composition. For one thing, heliotrope has a number of facets – a cherry-almond waxiness, gentle powder, hints of pipe tobacco – that marry well to leather and maybe even lean in the direction of soft leather. (Think Guerlain Cuir Beluga, which pivots on a heliotrope accord.) Heliotrope is also used in Montale’s loukhoum perfume, Sweet Oriental Dream, and I catch whiffs of Sweet Oriental Dream coming through in Oud Cuir d’Arabie. It is what refines this leather scent for me and makes it so gracefully wearable. It also wouldn’t surprise me if there was iris in Oud Cuir d’Arabie, as iris can have a silicone-like, new leather smell before it warms and becomes more cosmetic (as it does in the quietly marvelous Parfum d’Empire Equistrius, which is yet another perfume I’m reminded of as I wear Montale Oud Cuir d’Arabie, if only in terms of this aspect).
One thing I don’t get much of in Oud Cuir d’Arabie is the oud—the “burnt wood” note that is referenced by Montale. It is mildly there, a hint of Montale’s much-used medicinal oud accord that smells like Band-Aids, noticeable in the perfume's opening salvo. I believe it’s accountable for what I perceive as the inky portion of the top notes: a bit of olfactory drama that sets the stage and takes the wearer to a dusky setting (Arabia after dark, maybe?) before the perfume smoothes out into its supple sofa-leather smell. The portion of real estate it takes up is so small, though, that its inclusion in the perfume’s name is misleading and unnecessary: Cuir d’Arabie pretty much says it all.
By the way, I have Christos to thank for this perfume, too, and it’s important for me to state this. In my reviews I like to credit friends who’ve sent me stuff, firstly to thank them and secondly because it reminds me how much my world has expanded via the perfume community. Yeah, I’ve never been to Spain, but this year I went to the Jersey shore with Greek sandals and German perfumes, and it felt so right…felt so good!.
Montale Oud Cuir d’Arabie eau de parfum can be purchased at LuckyScent.com, where the cost of the 50-ml bottle is currently $100. (It used to be priced at $120.) My review is based on a decant I received from Christos of Memory of Scent, whose own review is here.)
Images: Photo of me in my Greek sandals is my own; Montale Oud Cuir d'Arabie is from Basenotes.net.
†lyrics excerpted from the pop song "Never Been to Spain," written by Hoyt Axton and recorded by the band Three Dog Night (as well as Elvis Presley) © Lady Jane Music.
Posted by Suzanne Keller, 8/12/2014.