Eiderdown Press
Musings about Perfume and Life
Suzanne’s Perfume Journal
Click on Links to Previous Posts, below

A Conversation on Arabie

A Package from Christos: Greek Sandals & Oud Cuir d'Arabie

A Package from Ines

A Package from Lavanya

A More Affordable Olfactionary

A Week of Wearing What I Like

Amouage Dia (pour femme)

Amouage Dia (pour homme)

Amouage Epic Woman

Amouage Gold

Amouage Interlude Man

Amouage Jubilation 25 

Amouage Lyric Woman

Amouage Memoir Woman

Amouage Opus I

Amouage Opus III

Amouage Opus IV

Amouage Opus V

Amouage Opus VI

Amouage Tribute

Amouage Ubar

Annick Goutal Ambre Fetiche

Annick Goutal Encens Flamboyant

Annick Goutal Heure Exquise

Annick Goutal Petite Cherie

Annick Goutal Sables

April Aromatics Calling All Angels

April Aromatics Bohemian Spice

April Aromatics Jasmina 

April Aromatics Nectar of Love

April Aromatics Rose L'Orange

Aroma M Geisha Green

Aroma M Geisha Rouge

Arquiste Anima Dulcis

Arquiste Boutonniere no. 7

At the Moment (Chanel 22 & Marshall Crenshaw)

At the Moment (Contemplating Change & Habit Rouge)

At the Moment (Marron Chic & Paris)

At the Moment (More Midsummer Delights/Epic/Geisha Noire)

At the Moment (Saki & Lubin Idole edt)

At the Moment (Secret de Suzanne /D'Orsay L'Intrigante)

At the Moment (Spring Pretties/Un Air de Samsara)

At the Moment (Summery Things...Love Coconut)

At the Moment (Vera Wang & Fireman's Fair novel)

Ava Luxe Café Noir

Beatnik Emptiness Incense

Best of 2009

Bond No. 9 Andy Warhol Silver Factory

Bond No. 9 Brooklyn

Bond No. 9 Little Italy

Bond No. 9 New Haarlem

Bottega Veneta eau de parfum

Breath of God

Byredo Green

By Kilian Amber Oud

Calyx by Prescriptives

Canturi by Stefano Canturi

Capote, Truman & Evening in Paris

Carner Barcelona D600

Caron Aimez-Moi

Caron French Cancan

Caron Parfum Sacre

Caron Tabac Blond

Caron Tubereuse

Caron Yatagan

Cartier II L'Heure Convoitee

Cartier IV L'Heure Fougueuse

Chanel 31 Rue Cambon

Chanel Bel Respiro

Chanel Chance

Chanel Coco

Chanel Coromandel

Chanel Cuir de Russie

Chanel Egoiste

Chanel No. 5 (vintage)

Chanel No. 22

Chantecaille Petales

Chantilly Dusting Powder

Clive Christian C for Women

Comme des Garcons Daphne

Comme des Garcons LUXE Champaca

Comme des Garcons Series 7 Sweet Nomad Tea

Costes by Costes

Coty Ambre Antique

Coty Chypre

Coty Paris

Creature by Kerosene

Creed Acqua Fiorentina

Creed Fleurs de Bulgarie

Creed Virgin Island Water

DSH Perfumes Bancha Extreme

DSH Perfumes Quinacridone Violet 

DSH Perfumes Vert pour Madame


Devilscent Project

Dior Diorissimo (vintage)

Donna Karan Black Cashmere

EnVoyage Vents Ardents

EnVoyage Zelda

Estee Lauder Private Collection

Estee Lauder Private Collection Jasmine White Moss

Etat Libre d'Orange Rien, Rossy de Palma & Noel au Balcon

Faberge Woodhue Cologne

Favorite Fall Fragrances

Fendi Uomo

Fragrances for Sweden

Frapin 1697 Absolu Parfum

Frederic Malle Angeliques Sous La Pluie

Frederic Malle Bigarade Concentrée

Frederic Malle Carnal Flower

Frederic Malle Geranium Pour Monsieur

Frederic Malle Iris Poudre

Frederic Malle Le Parfum de Therese

Frederic Malle Lipstick Rose

Frederic Malle Noir Epices

Frederic Malle Portrait of a Lady

Frederic Malle Une Fleur de Cassie

Frederic Malle Une Rose

Geoffrey Beene Grey Flannel

Ghosts of Perfumes Past, Present & Future

Gone Fishin'

Gucci Eau de Parfum

Gucci L'Arte di Gucci

Gucci Pour Homme

Guerlain Aqua Allegoria Lys Soleia

Guerlain Aroma Allegoria Exaltant

Guerlain Attrape Coeur

Guerlain Chamade

Guerlain Jicky

Guerlain Mayotte

Guerlain Parure

Guerlain Samsara Parfum

Guerlain Un Air de Samsara

Guerlain Vega

Guerlain Vetiver (vintage)

Guy Laroche J'ai Ose (vintage)

Happy Solstice

Hermes 24, Faubourg

Hermes Caleche (vintage)

Hermes Eau des Merveilles

Hermes Hiris

Hermes Iris Ukiyoe

Hermes L'Ambre des Merveilles

Histoires de Parfums 1740

Histoires de Parfums 1828

Histoires de Parfums Blanc Violette

Histoires de Parfums Vert Pivoine

Hometown Portrait, State College, PA

Honore des Pres Vamp a NY

House of Matriarch Carmine

How I Store Decants

Il Profumo Cannabis

In Memory (w/mention of Lanvin Arpege)

Jacomo #02

Jacomo #09 (Link to my review in Sniffapalooza Magazine)

Jean Desprez Bal a Versailles

Jean Patou Joy

Jean Patou 1000

Jo Malone Saffron Cologne Intense

Jo Malone Sweet Milk Cologne 

Juliet by Juliet Stewart

Kai Eau de Parfum

Kenzo Jungle l’Elephant

Kenzo Summer

Lancome Magie Noire (vintage) 

Lanvin Via Lanvin (vintage) 

L'Artisan Parfumeur Nuit de Tubereuse

L'Artisan Parfumeur Orchidee Blanche 

L’Artisan Parfumeur Passage d’Enfer

L'Artisan Parfumeur Seville a l'Aube

L’Artisan Parfumeur Tea for Two

La Via del Profumo Balsamo Della Mecca

La Via del Profumo Hindu Kush

La Via del Profumo Milano Caffe

La Via del Profumo Oud Caravan Project

La Via del Profumo Sharif

La Via del Profumo Tawaf

Le Labo Gaiac 10

Le Labo Iris 39

Le Labo Patchouli 24

Le Labo Poivre 23

Little Lists

Lorenzo Villoresi Yerbamate

M. Micallef Vanille Orient

Maison Francis Kurkdjian Absolue Pour le Soir

Maison Martin Margiela (untitled) eau de parfum

Maitre Parfumeur et Gantier Eau des Iles

Message In A Bottle 

Michael Storer Winter Star

Miller Harris L'Air de Rien


Missoni (original) by Missoni

Molinard Habanita

Mona Di Orio Nuit Noire

Mona Di Orio Oud

Mona Di Orio Vanille

Montale Black Aoud

Montale Boise Vanille

Montale Intense Tiare

Montale Patchouli Leaves

Montale Red Aoud

More Roses (rose cookie recipe)

My Heart Has Skipped a Beat (summer smells)

My Perfumes Have Theme Songs

Nasomatto China White

Neila Vermeire Creations Bombay Bling

Nina Ricci L'Air du Temps

Nez a Nez Ambre a Sade

Northern Exposure "A Dash of Chanel No. 5"

Odin 04 Petrana (Link to my review in Sniffapalooza Magazine)

Olivier Durbano Black Tourmaline

Omar Sharif Pour Femme

Oriscent Pure Oud Oils

Ormonde Jayne Frangipani

Ormonde Jayne Ormonde Woman

Oscar de la Renta Oscar for Men

O Tannenbaum Joint Blog Project

Parfum d'Empire Azemour

Parfum d'Empire Cuir Ottoman

Parfum d'Empire Equistrius

Parfum d'Empire 3 Fleurs

Parfumerie Generale Bois de Copaiba

Parfumerie Generale Indochine

Parfumerie Generale Un Crime Exotique

Parfums de Nicolai Sacrebleu

Parfums DelRae Amoureuse

Parfums Karl Lagerfeld Sun Moon Stars

Parfums MDCI Chypre Palatin

Parfums Retro Grand Cuir

Paris, je t'aime

Pascal Morabito Or Black 

Perfume Quotes - The English Patient

Prada Infusion d'Iris Absolue

Pretty Perfume Bottles 

Prince Matchabelli Aviance Cologne (vintage) 

Profumum Roma Acqua Viva

Profumum Roma D'Ambrosia

Puredistance I

Puredistance Antonia

Puredistance BLACK

Puredistance M

Puredistance Opardu

Ramon Monegal Cherry Musk

Recipe for Socca

Regina Harris Amber Vanilla Perfume Oil

Regina Harris Frankincense-Myrrh-Rose Maroc Perfume Oil

Robert Piguet Fracas

Robert Piguet Visa

Rochas Mystere 

Rome Vacation Photos

San Francisco Holiday

Sarah Horowitz Parfums' Joy Comes From Within & Beauty Comes From Within

Scented Reading

Scents of the Mediterranean

Scentuous Reading: One Hundred Years of Solitude

Serge Lutens Arabie

Serge Lutens Borneo 1834

Serge Lutens Boxeuses

Serge Lutens Chêne

Serge Lutens Chergui

Serge Lutens Fille en Aiguilles

Serge Lutens Five O’Clock Au Gingembre

Serge Lutens Fumerie Turque

Serge Lutens Miel de Bois

Serge Lutens Muscs Koublai Khan

Serge Lutens Tubereuse Criminelle

Serge Lutens Un Lys

Serge Lutens Vetiver Oriental

Slumberhouse Rume

Snow Days

Sonoma Scent Studio Incense Pure

Sonoma Scent Studio Jour Ensoleille

Sonoma Scent Studio Voile de Violette

Sonoma Scent Studio Winter Woods (brief mention)

SoOud Ouris Parfum Nectar

S-Perfume 100% Love {More}

Stone Harbor, NJ Vacaton pix (non-perfume related)

Strange Invisible Perfumes Lyric Rain

Sweden Is For Lovers

T is for Taxes

Tauer Perfumes: Incense Extrême, Incense Rosé, Lonestar Memories, & Reverie au Jardin

Tauer Perfumes Vetiver Dance

The Amazing Adventures of Kavalier & Clay

The Diary of a Nose, Book Review

The Different Company Jasmin de Nuit

The Intimacy of Scent

Thoughts of a Perfume Collector


Tokyo Milk Ex Libris

Unlocking an Unknown: Webber Parfum 6T

Velvet & Sweet Pea's Purrfumery Bed of Roses

Venimus Vidimus Vicimus, or How 3 Perfume Bloggers and a Husband Took Rome

Vero Profumo Kiki, Onda, and Rubj

Vero Profumo Mito

Viktoria Minya Hedonist

Viktor & Rolfe Flowerbomb

What I’m Lovin’ Now

Xerjoff Mamluk

YOSH Perfumes Ginger Ciao

Yves Saint Laurent Nu

Links to Other Blogs I Enjoy 

All I Am - A Redhead

A Perfume Blog (Blacknall Allen)

Another Perfume Blog (Natalie)

Ars Aromatica

Australian Perfume Junkies

Beauty on the Outside

Bloody Frida

Bois de Jasmin

Bonkers About Perfume

Ca Fleure Bon

ChickenFreak's Obsessions


Eyeliner on a Cat

Fragrance Bouquet

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 

Nathan Branch

Natural Perfumery by Salaam

Notes on Shoes, Cake & Perfume

Notes From Josephine

Notes From the Ledge

Now Smell This

Oh, True Apothecary! 


Olfactoria's Travels 

Parfumistans blogg


Perfume Posse

Perfume Shrine

Perfume-Smellin' Things

Purple Paper Planes

Redolent of Spices

Riktig Parfym: Ramblings of a Fragrant Fanatic

Scented Salamander

Scents of Place

Scents of Self

Smelly Blog

Sorcery of Scent 

Sweet Diva

The Alembicated Genie 

The Candy Perfume Boy 

The Fragrant Man

The French Exit 

The Non-Blonde

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 

Yesterday's Perfume

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
Keller, 8/12/2014.

Arquiste Anima Dulcis: The Muriel Pritchett Version of Comfort ...

Sweet and Intrepid


   “I suppose you realize what your life is going to be like,” she said. She climbed out of bed. She stood next to him in her nightgown, hugging her bare arms. “You’ll be one of those mismatched couples no one invites to parties. No one will know what to make of you. People will wonder whenever they meet you, ‘My God, what does he see in her? Why choose someone so inappropriate? It’s grotesque, how does he put up with her?’ And her friends will no doubt be asking the same about you.”

   “That’s probably true,” Macon said. He felt a mild stirring of interest; he saw now how such couples evolved. They were not, as he’d always supposed, the result of some ludicrous lack of perception, but had come together for reasons that the rest of the world would never guess.

The above excerpt is from a conversation that occurs near the end of Anne Tyler’s novel, The Accidental Tourist, just after the novel’s protagonist, Macon Leary, informs his wife Sarah that he is going back to Muriel, the woman he slowly, almost reluctantly fell in love with after Sarah left him (before she changed her mind about their marriage and came back). I had seen the film version of The Accidental Tourist years ago, but only recently read the novel, seeking it out when I was in need of something profoundly comfortinga different kind of reassurance than the fluffy comfort of a generic (non-literary) romance novel, though there is enough romance and quirky humor within Anne Tyler’s works to impart some welcome fluffiness too. In a style that manages to be as absurdly funny as it is poignant, Tyler explores two sides of the same coin: the deep heartbreak and deep strength of family life. Her characters are often involved in walking out on their families, taking a sabbatical almost, because just as often they walk back to them again, changed and strengthened in many ways, and also predestined to return – as if, once a family is established, it becomes its own solar system, with ties as strong as the magnetic force fields around planets. This dynamic plays out in The Accidental Tourist, too, but not entirely: here the main character eventually manages to break free of his family’s force field, and in his case, thank goodness.

Apropos of his name, Macon Leary is leery of the world at large and has always been so. Unwilling to embrace anything new, he makes his living catering to people who are just like him, writing tour guides for business travelers who don’t want to leave the familiar comforts of home, instructing them in ways that will allow them to travel in a cocoon of sorts. When his only son dies, the victim of a senseless murder, Macon becomes even more entrenched in his desire to hide away from the world, and when his wife Sarah leaves him, he returns to the home he grew up in, where he and his middle-aged siblings take hiding out to a whole new level. Mind you, they do it in a good and orderly way—so much so, they view themselves as “conventional” and, thus, don't know what to make of the enterprising young woman who is determined to steer Macon onto a new course when he hires her to tame the one thing in his life that is wild and unruly: his dog.

Muriel Pritchett, the dog trainer, is not Macon’s type at all. For one thing, she’s too young: “She barely remembered Vietnam and had no idea where she’d been when Kennedy was shot.” She’s also not of his class, living on the poor side of Baltimore and dressing that way, in eccentric and flashy thrift-store ensembles involving skimpy skirts or short shorts paired with “preposterously high-heeled sandals.” She talks non-stop (whereas Macon prefers silence), sings country-western songs, makes her desires clear in audaciously bold requests, and has a timid young son who seems to suffer from every form of allergy under the sun, made worse by the fact that Muriel worries over him excessively. She is one of those women for whom more is more; perhaps because many aspects of her life are hard, she has an interest in cultivating glamour and spends much of her free time poring over lipstick colors, perusing thrift shops and drug stores, reading how-to articles in women’s magazines and filling out contest forms to try and win vacation trips to places she’s never been and can’t afford. She’s also industrious, scrappy and smart. She knows how to show an attack dog who’s boss; she’s not afraid to defend herself when a delinquent teenager tries to rob her of everything in her purse; and she will use every ounce of her resourcefulness to get on a plane to Paris and try to win back the man she not only loves but the man she saved when he was falling apart.

So, that is the book and those are the characters I turned to when I was craving comfort, and for the perfume complement I turned to my bottle of Arquiste Anima Dulcis. In English, Anima Dulcis means “sweet soul,” and it is definitely a gourmand-leaning treat of a perfume, butterscotched and soothing in its overall projection and especially its drydown. However, before its surprisingly soft drydown arrives, Anima Dulcis is pure charisma with an intoxicating kaleidoscope of treats. Like Muriel, the top and middle stage of this perfume is a “more is more” whiff of many things at once: a jolt of orange and pepper, their collision high and sweet and zingily staccato-like, gliding over an amber accord which accommodates a whiff of light leather, an air of unlit pipe tobacco and a draught of honeyed wine that is also reminiscent of the syrup from a stewed fruit compote. These latter elements lead me to believe osmanthus figures into the perfume’s composition, as that nectarous floral with its olfactory facets of honey, apricots and suede leather has a particular scent profile that is highly evocative of everything I smell in Anima Dulcis in the first hour of wear (attended by other accords, too, of course). The Arquiste website provides an artistically sketchy list of notes—cocoa absolute, Mexican vanilla, cinnamon and chili infusion is what they claim—along with a description likening it to the scent of spiced cocoa made by nuns in the closed halls of an ancient convent. To this, all I can say is that Anima Dulcis is an irresistible concoction, equal parts charisma and comfort, but hot cocoa it’s not, and I’m just as glad. To my nose, it smells like a patchouli-amber perfume enhanced by bergamot, black pepper, osmanthus, benzoin and Australian sandalwood. True, there is a cocoa note in it, which might emanate from patchouli, but it’s a sheer accent—like a fine dusting of cocoa powder—rather than a defining element of this perfume.

There is also something a little bit furry about Anima Dulcis. I can’t guess from where this furriness emanates, and it hardly matters. It’s furry and warm and dry, like the hair on a man’s chest, or like the fur of a well-cared-for pet, which is another reason why the perfume seems fitting for the character of Muriel, who works at the Meow Bow animal clinic (dressed in her sexy, eclectic ensembles, and not in veterinarian’s assistant scrubs). Anima Dulcis isn’t a perfume that I think of as perfection – it quiets down on my skin a little too quickly and doesn’t have great sillage, even when I apply it liberally – yet it encompasses so much in terms of its traits. Sweet, fizzy and, at the same time, boozy, like an Orangina poured over a shot of brandy; more spicily brisk as the cinnamon and pepper develops over the first fifteen minutes of wear; then elegant and sexy and richly textured, thanks to the osmanthus-like treats previously mentioned. On top of all this, it’s also fluffy and candied, furry and deep, and then very goldenly vanillic in its drydown. The vanilla here is not custardy—it’s golden and butterscotched and reminds me of raw sugar, which is to say that it’s a more resinous vanilla that smells as if it was achieved with benzoin.

* * *

There is a point, midway through the novel, where Macon Leary has moved in with Muriel at her place on Singleton Street ( a shabby yet convivial address on the down side of town), and is now mulling over her traits, good and bad, arriving at a point where:

… he knew that what mattered was the pattern of her life; that although he did not love her he loved the surprise of her, and also the surprise of himself when he was with her. In the foreign country that was Singleton Street he was an entirely different person. This person had never been suspected of narrowness, never been accused of chilliness; in fact, was mocked for his soft heart. And was anything but orderly.

In a nutshell, that is what I love about perfume (and fiction, which, at its best, is quite real). I love the surprise of it and the surprise of myself when I’m lost in it. In the foreign country that is Anima Dulcis, I am like Macon when he is with Muriel. The opposite of narrowness and chilliness; soft-hearted, in fact; and anything but orderly.


Arquiste Anima Dulcis can be purchased at fine boutiques like Barneys.com (where I purchased my bottle) and is currently priced at $165 for 55-ml.

Images: film still of actors William Hurt and Geena Davis from the 1988, film version of The Accidental Tourist can be found at various places on the Internet; bottle image is from Fragrantica.com.

The Accidental Tourist, copyright © 1985 by Anne Tyler Modarressi (excerpts are from the Ballantine Book paperback edition, published by The Random House Publishing Group, New York, 2002, pp. 327 and 194-195, respectively).

Posted by
Keller, 7/29/2014.

Perfume and a Movie: Le Labo Iris 39 and Stealing Beauty

I have a tiny dab sample of Le Labo Iris 39 that Undina gave me when I visited her in San Francisco. She’d given me lots of samples, most of which wouldn’t be sniffed until I came home, but I remember uncapping the vial of Iris 39 while sitting in her closet going through her stuff and being utterly riveted – similar to a man’s reaction at catching sight of a beautiful girl. Here’s the kind of beauty that jerks your head around, double-take fashion, as if you’d been driving down an ordinary street and suddenly spied a stunning creature completely out of her element in a small town like yours. (Unless your small town happens to be a romantic village in the South of France or the scenic hills of Tuscany). I’ve uncapped this vial quite a few times in the past couple months, and my reaction is always the same, so I was surprised by mini-reviews at LuckyScent, where several people claimed they couldn’t deal with the top notes of Iris 39. To me, its top notes are utterly arresting – so floral and green and cosmetic that this scent strikes me as one of the most überly feminine perfumes I’ve ever smelled, and yet it’s a very specific vision of beauty: the green notes, achieved in part by lime, are refreshingly energetic and youthful (in the dewy and radiant sense of the word), while the iris accord makes it smell as if it has a cosmopolitan chic-ness and sense of reserve that might seem in contrast to the former description. I sniff it and instantly see the actress Liv Tyler playing the role of Lucy in the 1996, Bernardo Bertolucci-directed film, Stealing Beauty.

Remember that film? You’re not alone if you don’t. According to Wikipedia, it met with mixed reviews and has only a 53% rating at the movie database Rotten Tomatoes, which I mention because I have the same reaction to Stealing Beauty as I have to the perfume that reminds me of it. I find it so exquisitely lovely in every regard (meaning, in ways that go beyond the film’s lush scenery) that I can’t understand a person not liking it. How can that be possible? I want to say – and on the heels of saying so, convince myself that it’s necessary for me to couple it to a perfume review aimed at converting other people into loving it and, by extension, into loving Le Labo Iris 39, too. :-)

And in truth, doing so needn’t be a wordy enterprise, because Stealing Beauty and Le Labo Iris 39 have this in common: they are not grandly unfolding affairs. Both have a decided sense of elevated beauty and lushness about them that becomes immediately apparent (there is no prelude or prologue or waiting around for effervescent top notes to burn off) and yet there is something svelte about their storylines that makes the audience (the viewer, the wearer) more acutely aware of their beauty. When watching Stealing Beauty, the story line might be slim but it’s not flimsy: it’s a coming-of-age recollection of that one perfect, almost mystical summer when a beautiful girl is on the cusp of womanhood, divining its mysteries and entering its fold. Watching Lucy, you become Lucy – you are reminded of that line from Shakespeare, “Summer’s lease hath all too short a date” – and you understand that you are watching a moment captured from the narrative of time and held in suspension, like a jewel plucked from a tiara and held admiringly in one’s hand, separate from life’s other crowning achievements.

In the film, Liv Tyler plays an American teenager named Lucy who is visiting the Tuscan villa where her poet mother once lived with the people who live there now, a small community of artists who are each other’s family, either literally or figuratively. Lucy has visited once before, a couple years prior, but now she has arrived after her mother’s suicide for a vacation in which she will reunite with her mother’s friends while modeling for the sculptor husband of the couple who own the villa. Almost as soon as she arrives she causes a bit of a stir: both her beauty and the fact that she’s a virgin arouse the attention of at least a couple of the males in residence, but Lucy isn’t the kind of wild child who is out to seduce. She is refreshingly candid and open-minded, yet keeps her own counsel and values a certain amount of privacy. While in Italy, she is secretly pursuing her own small quests, one of which is to figure out who her true father is, for she is savvy enough to know that it isn’t the man who has been raising her in America. The other is to rekindle a relationship with a boy she fell in love with on her last visit, whose kiss and whose letters are lodged in her heart. Lucy wouldn’t mind losing her virginity – however, not simply for the sake of losing it and not to just anyone. Aware that others are watching and waiting for her to do so, she demonstrates a slyness and a well-developed mind of her own as she waits for the boy who truly matters.

It sort of tickles me that it was an iris-centric perfume that whispered Lucy’s name in my ear. Iris-centric perfumes strike me as intellectual, as they are often cool and ethereal fragrances that seem to be keeping something in reserve (they are not effusive and emotive, in other words, although iris does also happen to be a note that has two sides, often segueing on the skin to become powdery and cosmetic). Even so, many iris soliflores tread too far in a stand-offish direction for me to equate them with Lucy, who is as glowingly warm and romantic in comportment as she is secretive and selective in thought. Which brings me to my point and one of the defining elements of Le Labo Iris 39: thanks to the accompaniment of zingy lime and sultry ginger, Iris 39 is that rare iris perfume that vibrates in a way that makes me see it as having warmth and a summery, Italian-sunlight kind of loveliness to it. Though it doesn’t have a pyramidal unfolding on the skin, its complexity lies in the facets it embraces while maintaining its distinctly iris sensibility. How many iris perfumes can you think of that smell as youthfully siren-like (thanks to its green notes), sensuous (thanks to the discernible nectar of creamy ylang-ylang), warm and energetic (on account of ginger), and yet svelte, cosmetic and sophisticated in the way of iris (and violet, which is an aromamaterial that underscores the character of iris)?

The promotional list of notes for Iris 39 includes iris, lime, patchouli, rose, ylang-ylang, musk, violet, ginger, cardamom and civet, and while it’s certainly an abbreviated list (the “39” in its name indicates, as part of Le Labo’s naming theme, the number of aroma-materials used in the composition), it pretty much represents how this fragrance smells. I can’t say I really notice the patchouli, and the civet doesn’t come off as smelling animalic to me (at least not most days that I’ve worn it) but it does achieve an oily-smelling richness that anchors Iris 39 and gives it a sense of depth and presence, adding a womanly vibe that is taut rather than blowsy or pillowy. If I were to come up with a single sentence to describe Iris 39 in purely olfactory terms (no anthropomorphizing), the best I could say is that it smells like a mixed bouquet of pastoral greens and heady tropical blooms that have been gathered into the fold of something cosmetic, as if their stems were wrapped up in a woman’s silk scarf bearing traces of the face powder she dusted on her throat earlier on a summer’s day.

* * *

In Stealing Beauty, one of life’s more exquisite coming-of-age moments is given even greater poignancy as it’s viewed through the lens of a rarefied environment: one that is worldly and free-thinking while, at the same time, intimate and secluded – and secluded not just anywhere, but in one of the most breathtaking places on earth. In sentiment if (almost certainly) not in circumstance, it echoes our own experience: the heightened way we felt when it was our summer of love, so to speak. That is its magic—recalling that feeling!—and that is the magic of Le Labo Iris 39: its ability to recall the amplified sense of worldliness, uncommon beauty, and private containment that is ours at life’s ecliptic turning points.


Le Labo Iris 39 eau de parfum can be purchased from LuckyScent.com, where a 50-ml bottle is currently priced at $160. My review is based on a sample gifted to me by fellow perfume blogger Undina.


Images: film stills of actress Liv Tyler as Lucy in the 1996, Bernardo Bertolucci-directed film Stealing Beauty (which can be found at various places on the Internet); bottle image of Le Labo Iris 39 is from Luckyscent.com.

Posted by Suzanne Keller, 7/7/2014.

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