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
Exploring the Stuff of Which Matches are Made
with Bond-T by Sammarco Perfumes
When it first hits the skin, Bond-T is reminiscent of the bittersweet, dark chocolate aroma that issues forth from the grinding of freshly roasted coffee beans—and because of this and the way it develops thereafter, a scene from a novel comes to mind. Appropriately, that novel is the wintry, dark-souled Scandinavian novel Smilla’s Sense of Snow, and the scene (the passage excerpted below) is the starting point for the relationship that develops between Smilla, the novel’s savvy yet feral heroine, and the man she calls “the mechanic.” The mechanic lives in Smilla’s apartment building, and in the past he has fixed her bicycle and she has done a minor favor for him, but theirs is mostly a nodding acquaintance. Until this night—when the mechanic secretly follows Smilla to a factory in Copenhagen where she’s conducting her own secret investigation into the death of a child who lived in their building and who had wormed his way into Smilla’s steely heart. Perhaps because the mechanic had been a friend of the child’s too, when he startles Smilla via his intrusion at the darkened factory at 3 in the morning—and she more than startles him back by toppling a series of bookcases on him—he somehow survives the ambush (Smilla is the type of character who could have done him serious bodily harm). He ends up driving her back to their building and she follows him to his apartment, where hovering in the air is a good deal of suspicion between them and not much else to recommend them as a match. Smilla is a mathematical genius with the Greenland Inuit’s inner knowledge of snow and ice (and the Greenlander’s distrust of the Danes she now lives among). She’s also tiny, fierce and quick. The mechanic is tall and burly, slow of movement, a dyslexic, a stutterer—and a genius in the kitchen. “C-coffee?” he asks her, to which Smilla’s reaction is:
Coffee is poison. And yet I suddenly have the urge to roll in the mud and I say, “Yes, please.”
I stand in the doorway and watch while he makes it. The kitchen is completely white. He takes up his position in the middle, the way a badminton player does on the court, so he has to move as little as possible. He has a little electric grinder. First he grinds a lot of light-colored beans and then some that are tiny, almost black, and shiny as glass. He mixes them in a little metal funnel that he attaches to an expresso machine, which he places on a gas burner.
People acquire bad coffee habits in Greenland. I pour hot milk right on the Nescafé. I’m not above dissolving the powder in water straight from the hot-water tap.
He pours one part whipping cream and two parts whole milk into two tall glasses with handles.
When he draws out the coffee from the machine, it’s thick and black like crude oil. Then he froths the milk with the steam nozzle and divides the coffee between the two glasses.
We take it out to the sofa. I do appreciate it when someone serves me something good. In the tall glasses the drink is dark as an old oak tree and has an overwhelming, almost perfumed tropical scent.
“I was following you,” he says.†
Indeed, he was following her, and his ability to deliver up an excellent coffee drink and a plausible explanation for his actions won’t lower the red flag waving in Smilla’s mind. However, this is the juncture where this couple starts to bond and it’s the perfect jumping-off point for talking about Bond-T.
Bond-T is not a coffee perfume, but in mood and even in terms of its scent facets, it evokes the passage above. From its rich cocoa start that reminds me of the making of a mochaccino to its base-note heavy construction that imparts a sense of both weight (importance, nourishment) and wait (a deliciously slow unfolding), Bond-T delivers up what a superlative gourmand perfume should. A feeling of cozy intimacy achieved through notes that speak of delight, warmth and sensuality—represented respectively by Bond-T’s chocolate, tobacco and animalic accords.
The chocolate notes that kick off the scent, upon application, are dense and liqueur-like; sweet enough to tickle the mind’s pleasure center while stopping short any thoughts of the patisserie shop. Cake and candy is definitely not on one’s mind when smelling it, for in the same way that the mechanic’s coffee drink was “dark as an old oak tree” and, simultaneously, in possession of “an overwhelming, almost perfumed tropical scent,” the osmanthus accord in Bond-T quickly makes itself felt through this cocoa haze, creating a similar effect. Osmanthus is a floral that can smell fruity, in the way of apricots and tea, and sensual in the way of suede leather. It can also be used to achieve a full-on impression of tobacco, and in Bond-T, this is the direction it takes. Nectarous and warm, this osmanthus-informed tobacco smells only of the curing leaf and not of anything smoky. It has a boozy fullness to it, thanks to the delicate apricot nuances of the osmanthus and the layer of chocolate scent that quiets but never fully disappears—likely because this chocolate is achieved, at least in part, by way of a deep, throbbing patchouli accord. One that smells earthy and aged, but without the camphorous element of natural patchouli. (Which is a pretty neat trick since Bond-T is an all-natural perfume.)
The animalic notes of Bond-T aren’t immediately evident, and the first couple times I wore the perfume, I didn’t notice them because they don’t thump you on the head the way that, for example, cumin does when it appears in a perfume. Achieved by way of castoreum and tonka, Bond-T’s animalic accord is different from any animalic accord I’ve ever sniffed: it steals up slowly in a way that reminds me both of Smilla and her mechanic. Its furtive nature might be attributed to the languor of the natural castoreum used in this perfume. It is less smoky and more delicate than mainstream perfumes that list castoreum as a note. Whatever the reason, the animalic base of Bond-T becomes pronounced late in the wear-time of the perfume, but while it is slow-building, when it arrives it makes the tobacco heart of this fragrance smell like tobacco leaves curing in the upper part of a barn that houses some cattle and horses below. As such, there is a whiff of what I’ll call the horse-dung-and-cattle-hide aroma that makes Bond-T smell wild and alive and, well, sexy. I think it might also account for the perfume’s staying power, as I get great longevity with this perfume, though the sillage is quiet for much of its wear time.
If liquor can be credited with fueling most of the world’s hook-ups, I suspect that slowly-savored cups of coffee or tea can be credited for fostering the world’s deeper bonds. In this regard, Bond-T is fittingly named: it’s an olfactory libation delivering the kinds of goodies that make serious people like Smilla feel, if not quite drunk with love, then at least tipsy with the possibilities.
Bond-T perfume has notes of cocoa, patchouli, castoreum, tonka, vanilla and osmanthus. It can be purchased from perfumer Giovanni Sammarco’s website, where a 30-ml bottle is currently priced at 140 Swiss Francs (CHF). My review is based on the bottle I purchased.
A Rose By Any Other Name . . .
Guerlain Encens Mythique d'Orient
Sometimes, or maybe often, it’s the simple things that rivet my attention. This doesn’t mean I eschew opulence—quite the opposite. I thoroughly enjoy the thrill and awe of all kinds of opulent gestures: the feeling of jaw-dropping wonder at St. Peter’s Basilica in Rome, for instance, that allows one to see what superlatives man is capable of in that rare intersection where extraordinarily fine detail is carried out on the grandest of scales. Or an opulent perfume with layers of undulating accords that shimmer and swish like the tiered fringes of a 1920s flapper dress (again coupling the notion of fine detail with a bolder concept like movement). Opulence is, for me, an occasion to expand my world and understand potential, in its fullest sense, while simplicity is like a poem: intimate, deeply personal, the most immediate and straight-forward route to the heart. Simplicity can be homespun, but simplicity is also the measure of elegance: it’s a very concise statement of beauty.
I’ve been thinking about these things—simplicity versus opulence, poetry versus the epic novel—because while I need and crave both ends of the spectrum, this has been a year in which I particularly crave simplicity, especially in terms of perfume. And the perfume I’ve been wearing rather steadily this past month has been Guerlain Encens Mythique d’Orient, which, despite its opulent-sounding name, is an elegantly simple-smelling composition. The aroma-materials used to create this perfume certainly smell rich and expensive—and for all I know, its formulation could be very complex—but in terms of how it comes across to my nose, it is streamlined and deft. I smell a dewy rose gliding over silky greenery, at first, and soon afterwards, the rose and the greenery are joined by a touch of something that smells like myrrh to me (though myrrh isn’t listed in the notes), slightly medicinal and bittersweet, a cross between evergreen boughs and cherried syrup. Then there emerges a soft touch of a marzipan-like almond that reminds me of heliotrope (also not listed), and a cosmetic iris that toggles between the scent of suede leather and talc. A sleek rose-oriental—that’s how it wears for hours on my skin, until its far drydown and slow dissolve on a tender sandalwood-like base.
That’s pretty much all I smell and that’s all I need. Does it matter that I can’t detect the aldehydes, frankincense or the expensive ambergris that this perfume contains? Does it matter that its composition reminds me of other perfumes in my perfume wardrobe which revolve around a similar set of notes and share a similar spirit?
The answer to both questions is no. I find when I’m wearing Encens Mythique, I am often thinking of its similarity to Annick Goutal Heure Exquise, but at the same time I’m also weighing the differences between the two. And contemplating them together in this way makes me smile because they are like elegant poems that could have been written by two poets playing around with the same words and sharing a theme, yet there are different shadings, different phrasings, different points of view that make each poem unique, even if both seem to be playing echo and refrain to the same chorus.
Stanely Kunitz, who at the age of 95 was appointed Poet Laureate of the United States, once wrote: “Every new poem is like finding a new bride. Words are so erotic, they never tire of their coupling.” When I was wearing Encens Mythique this week and thinking about how to write about it—how to differentiate it from several other perfumes I’ve reviewed that, while not identical, are in the same vein—his comment kept running through my mind. Firstly, because Encens Mythique d’Orient and the others (Annick Goutal Heure Exquise, Le Labo Iris 39, Parfum d’Empire 3 Fleurs, Histoires de Parfums Vert Pivoine, and DSH Vert pour Madame) are all elegantly svelte affairs that truly do remind me of poems.
Secondly, because I just realized how I tend to gravitate towards perfumes that contain three main accords (greens, roses and iris), and somehow this combination of accords can be arranged in seemingly infinite ways I never tire of. Greens, dewy roses, and cosmetic irises are so romantic, they never tire of their canoodling—to paraphrase Kunitz. I can happily imagine owning a bottle of any and all perfumes they end up in. Yet here is where personal taste really comes into play: I can’t say the same thing about accords like wood, leather and amber, much as I love a good many of those. (I complain about duplication if I smell too many dry, smoky wood perfumes that seem to be variations on the same theme.) Why is it I feel such an affinity to the aforementioned favorite accords such that if I were trying to decide whether to plunk down money today on a bottle of Encens Mythique d’Orient or Heure Exquise or any of a number of similar scents (of this caliber), I would be a bit tortured in the process, weighing all my options?
* * *
After Thanksgiving ended, I placed my puffin figurines and the two Japanese maple leafs back on my kitchen shelf, juxtaposed next to some seashells, a little crystal I found on a hike in the woods, and a leaf that I have deemed the world’s tiniest oak leaf—just as they’d been before. They have a different poetic effect there, not nearly as potent as when they were arranged on my table with its sky-blue tablecloth and candles. On my kitchen shelf, they are simply a visual poem that reminds me of what I love about the earth. I could arrange them somewhat differently somewhere else in the house—maybe with a favorite scarf or piece of jewelry—and they would take on a different meaning. That’s the analogy I’ll use to justify falling in love with Guerlain Encens Mythique d’Orient. It’s not that it’s a striking new form of olfactory verse, but rather that it’s written in a sonnet form I favor, another exquisite paean to the notions of beauty, love and romance. That’s pretty much what greens and dewy roses and cosmetic irises always speak of, isn’t it?
Well, don’t feel compelled to answer. Poetry is as personal as it is universal, and there are days when I’d like to think those florals are only talking to me.
Guerlain Encens Mythique d’Orient eau de parfum is described in more opulent terms on the Guerlain website, where its actual* notes are listed as:
Top notes: rose, aldehyde, saffron note.
Heart notes: pink pepper, vetiver, patchouli.
Base notes: forest floor notes, ambergris, frankincense.
*Some notes I perceive and mention in my review aren’t listed, so take what I say with a grain of salt. The company describes the perfume as follows: “An ethereal frankincense leaves only a fleeting mark on this fragrance, while rose imprints its fiery accents. But the endless sweetness and exceptional depth come from authentic and majestic ambergris of New Zealand, specially selected by Thierry Wasser for this fragrance. An enigmatic opus to sing the praises of a world devoted to eternity.”
Encens Mythique d'Orient is available from the Guerlain boutiques and SaksFifthAvenue.com, where a 75-ml (2.5 oz) bottle is currently priced at $275. My review is based on a decant I received from my blogging friend (and almost-but-not-quite scent twin) Undina.
Photo of the vase of roses stolen from the website Familyholiday.net.
Photo of Guerlain Encens Mythique d'Orient bottle stolen from Guerlain.com.
Posted by Suzanne Keller, 12/5/2014.
Ramon Monegal Pure Mariposa: A Beautiful Way to Fly
I wasn’t awake to see the first winter snowflakes swirling in the air this past weekend, but my sister told me they’d arrived and it’s not surprising. I probably should steer my perfume writing accordingly, towards the discussion of a cozy comfort scent or a big oriental that goes great with cashmere, but one of the most beautiful perfumes I’ve sampled recently is Spanish perfumer Ramon Monegal’s creation Pure Mariposa (the full name is Pure Mariposa for Neiman Marcus, as it was created exclusively for that upscale department store), and it draws its inspiration from the butterfly (mariposa means butterfly in Spanish). The name couldn’t be more fitting: this perfume’s white floral heart has a tangerine-like nectar about it which imparts a sense of color, lift and delight while, at the same time, vibrates against a mossy chypre-like base. By virtue of its name and the fact that it’s a shimmery floral perfume, Pure Mariposa might strike one as the perfect scent for spring and summer, but this is not an airy butterfly scent in the way that L’Artisan Parfumeur’s La Chasse Aux Papillons is, for instance, with its white florals rendered wispy and fine. I happen to love that one too—it also is well-named, focusing more on the chase of something that is diaphanous and elusive, whereas Ramon Monegal’s perfume offers up a different point-of-view. To me, it’s a statement about being such a creature.
Butterflies in autumn shades of black, orange and olive green are pictured on the retail, carded sample of Pure Mariposa, and though whimsical in terms of their rendering, at least one of them is meant to resemble the Monarch butterfly—again, a perfect match to the perfume. Pure Mariposa has enough olfactory weight to remind one of those late-summer butterflies and their incredible migrations (Monarchs in the eastern part of the United States migrate as far south as Mexico and can cover 50 to 100 miles per day before reaching their destination). Likewise, Pure Mariposa is full of floral fluidity, but its olfactory wings rest on a frame that has an impressive tensile strength. At the end of the review, I’ll provide the perfumer’s full list of notes for this fragrance, and hopefully before then, I’ll have described its flight pattern on my skin. First, though, here’s a list of the things this perfume makes me think of when I’m wearing it:
To a large degree, Pure Mariposa is an orange blossom perfume (at least to my nose), and though orange blossoms don’t smell like oranges, there is either a phantom or real note of orange that accompanies the perfume, not just in the fleeting top-notes stage, but into its very heart. It’s a brisk and bitter orange note that reminds me of an Orangina when it first hits the skin, but as the orange blossom and accompanying white florals develop and come to the fore, it begins to smell more like the scent of a tangerine, lighter and sweeter. (It reminds me of bigarade, the “bitter orange” fruit which produces an essential oil that is surprisingly juicy smelling.) The combination of the two—the orange blossom bouquet and the piquant orange citrus note—very nicely translates into the idea of a butterfly: to my nose, these notes always smell as if they hover at least two octaves above other notes in the olfactory scale. Combined, they signal a state of sunlit, soaring joy.
If I didn’t have a note list, I’d have figured Pure Mariposa’s white-floral accord as largely consisting of orange blossom and jasmine, but the perfumer doesn’t list jasmine among the notes and identifies the other florals (besides orange blossom) as being tuberose, gardenia and orchid. Such an accord would normally play out with a certain amount of indolic headiness, but Pure Mariposa is not indolic, carnal or even what I would call heady. Though uplifting and joyous, the florals never soar out of the stratosphere, becalmed as they are by a base that adds enough bitter greenery, cool moss and amber weightiness to pull this nectar down to cloud level, ensuring that the perfume is naturally buoyant rather than perky or excitable. Of course, perfumistas who don’t care for the high-pitched floral sweetness of orange blossom probably aren’t going to be won over by Pure Mariposa, but those who are fans of the note have something to celebrate. Here is an orange blossom-heavy perfume that truly has a pyramidal development on the skin (I don’t know about you, but I find many orange blossom perfumes to be rather linear). It is a slow development (a gradual unfolding)—one that gradually takes place over three or four hours—but the floaty bouquet eventually transitions to a base that has a good dose of sandalwood in it. Not the super-fatted and vanillic sandalwood which so often provides a cushion to oriental perfumes, but a lightly creamy sandalwood with a smoky edge … a lean sandalwood, more woody than creamy, sometimes smelling as if it’s attended by a tendril of frankincense. It doesn’t make itself known until several hours into wear time, but when it arrives, it’s a lovely surprise—as if the white petals of Pure Mariposa have drifted down from the sky and found a resting place on a weathered branch of tree. It conjures images of the butterflies arriving in the half-parched Mexican landscape where they’ll take their respite from winter.
* * *
“The secret of life is enjoying the passage of time,” James Taylor once said in a song, and sung in his dreamy style, that advice sounds simple. A relaxed posture, an appreciation for spontaneity, an acceptance that everything is subject to change: I imagine these traits as part of the secret that allows one to go “sliding down, gliding down” through the ride of life. Yet I’d bet good money that those who do it best also possess a quietly steely will—a determination to show up and do the work that helps them navigate the currents and not simply be blown about. At any rate, I was thinking about these things when I was wearing Pure Mariposa, and I suppose it’s why I really like this perfume. It is both lithe and strong.
The Quaking Aspen has a long telescope of trunk; the cheerful waitress rises at dawn, wears sturdy shoes and stores a revolving roster of faces and menu choices in her memory banks. Daisies probably have secrets to their persistence and the orioles no doubt have spent millennia perfecting their acrobatic flight skills, but I don’t know much about either. What I do know is that all possess an upbeat and easy-going demeanor—a graceful way of moving through the world—that flies over a core of strength more felt than seen. Pure Mariposa is composed on a similar structure: it’s one of those perfumes I admire for its sunny nature, breezy beauty and intelligent design.
Ramon Monegal Pure Mariposa for Neiman Marcus eau de parfum is described on my carded, retail sample as having notes of tuberose, gardenia, orchid, orange blossom, oak moss, sandalwood, ozone, amber and musk. (I just saw that the notes on the Neiman Marcus website for this perfume are different and more numerous—and include three different citrus notes as well as jasmine.) It is currently priced at $200 for 50-ml. I received my sample as part of a birthday fragrance package from my dear blogging friend, Ann, of Perfume Posse.
On the subject of butterflies: In September, we saw far less Monarchs here than we normally do, yet thanks to blogging friends, butterflies came my way. Thank you, Ann, for the Pure Mariposa perfume, and thank you, Sigrun, for the butterfly nail tattoos! (Using a laser printer, Sigrun can create all kinds of nail tattoos; she sent me tattoos of Portuguese tiles in pretty colors, as well as many other designs.)
Photo of the woman examining butterfly stolen from Themakingofkiastorm.blogspot.com.
Photo of Pure Mariposa bottle stolen from Fragrantica.com. Photo of nail tattoos is my own.
Posted by Suzanne Keller, 11/7/2014.