October 2, 2009

Parisienne by Yves Saint Laurent

Posted in YSL at 11:25 am by April

I was quite excited to try Parisienne, and had to visit several department store locations before I found an active tester bottle, and was actually so eager that I was nearly prepared to order it blindly, though I’m happy I didn’t. I really wanted to love it and I truly expected that I would; but, as a flanker to Sophia Grojsman’s lovely Paris by YSL, Parisienne does not live up to the hype surrounding it.

I get no woods, and none of Grojsman’s signature powdery rose; this is a fragrance that doesn’t do its own name justice. When I think of Paris, I think of the Guerlain house, the Chanel house, and perfumes with a bang that will assault your emotions and break your heart just as easily as any lover. In comparison, Parisienne is an innocent child, quite unaware of any love beyond the platonic version. This fragrance consists, to my nose, of mostly faint berries in the form of a juice cocktail, watered down and weaker than sugar-free gum. There is a soft, subtle rose in the heart of this scent, but it’s not reminiscent of the rose in the original Paris; this is a shy wallflower who seems too reserved to make a statement and who’d rather mingle with the artificially sweetened berry punch than take center stage and dance her heart out.

The advertisements promised something sexy, edgy, and unique, but this is just a much less intense version of so many fruity-florals on the market today. The bottle itself reminded me of Viktor & Rolf’s Flowerbomb (a favorite of mine that reminds me of Grojsman’s masterpiece, Tresor – as they share a similar structure based on a smooth, sweet, powdery rose accord), and I was taken aback to find such a dull, little hum of a scent where I expected a beautiful fragrant song, encased in such a lovely bottle.

Though not an expensive scent (an ounce can be had for less than forty dollars), I couldn’t imagine spending more than ten dollars on this product, as I’ve spent less on huge bottles of body spray, which have smelled more complex and lasted longer on my skin than this did. After testing Parisienne twice, once on my skin and once on a paper strip, I can offer nothing positive, except, perhaps, that it does smell of the color light pink, and if pale, pink, extremely soft things excite you, there may be promise in Parisienne. For the rest of us who enjoy bright colors and varied textures, well, what can I say, except that I’m still in the market for a tour guide who can show me the extravagant richness that is Paris?

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September 15, 2009

Farewell Summer, Hello Fall!

Posted in Summer Scents at 1:46 pm by April

This past summer has been one of extreme temperatures and I’ve found myself enjoying some fresh, fruity, and floral scents that I’d otherwise have steered clear of, had the weather not been so daunting. From the obligatory body sprays (for use on days when the thermostat crawled past 100 degrees), to some very light and refreshing eau de parfums, here is a look at some of the scents (both new and old) that I’ve discovered and enjoyed over the past few months.

Miss Dior Cherie by Christian Dior

This one is a given; ask any young woman wearing a flirty skirt and a smile if she’s a fan of MDC and you’ll most likely get a passionate, “YES!” in response. It’s a perfume with a fan base that’s well-deserved. Though I didn’t quite fall for its charms immediately; it was only a matter of time before this patchouli-strawberry-rose, chypre concoction (that reminds me of strawberries and champagne with a bit of chilled pineapple), and which was composed by the talented Christine Nagel, ensnared my affections. Light, fruity, and sweet though still fresh, this is a perfume that’s capable of chasing the clouds away and calling forth the sun. I don’t know that it will get much use in the coming months, but it will be back on my dresser in all its cheerful innocence come spring of next year.

Rose Absolute by Yves Rocher

Though it took some time to actually receive this perfume once I’d ordered it (I’ll state very simply that Yves Rocher’s customer service is about the worst I’ve ever encountered), I was quite happy with it once the bottle found its way into my hands. I thought its citrus-y rose and patchouli notes paired well with its sweet tonka undertones to create something fresh, tart, powdery, and fun. The rose itself in Rose Absolute is thick, full, and fresh – very green and inviting, and it managed to maintain its freshness even though the rest of the scent had an almost (and I stress the word almost) gourmand feel. I wore this on days when the sun was shining but it wasn’t swelteringly hot, and I could find enough solace in the shade to enjoy something just slightly sweet and green.

L’eau d’Issey eau de parfum by Issey Miyake

Okay, so I missed the boat for this one in my teenage years when fresh aquatics were all the rage and I was consumed with the heavy-incensey-dirty-spicy-ambery scents that were CK Obsession and the like. But – this is far more beautiful than any aquatic I’ve yet to encounter and it may just be because I enjoy it in EDP form, instead of the more popular EDT, but I actually find L’eau d’Issey to be more floral than aquatic, at least until the dry-down. What begins as a burst of creamy carnation and lilies, eventually reveals melon and cedarwood; both of which add to the freshness of the flowers, while creating more depth and adding layers to this seamlessly blended classic. I was assaulted with L’eau d’Issey by the sprays of an over-eager SA at the Nordstrom Fragrance Festival this past spring, and though annoyed at the time, I’m quite thankful for the chance encounter with a fragrance I’d have otherwise overlooked due to the genre in which it’s been placed.

Something About Sofia by Benefit

This was a recent purchase and while I’ve mentioned it in another post, I’ll go into further detail about the scent itself, here. First off, Sofia opens with a burst of mango-guava sweetness. This is a floral oriental fragrance that is fruitier than most in its class, with floral and sweet aspects held together by tropical fruit. There is a big, bright, orange lily in the center of the composition, and sweet vanilla and white caramel make for an intoxicating dry-down. Though I compare it to D&G’s The One, it is more polished and offers more depth and personality than its predecessor, and this is one that will transition nicely into the autumn months and perhaps into winter, as well. Is it just me, or has anyone else noticed that several floral-oriental fragrances with lily in the heart and vanilla in the base, seem to take on a bubble-gum effect? It’s not a bad thing, just a curious one…

Beauty Rush Frostea Body Mist by Victoria’s Secret

It’s been a very long time since I purchased a body mist from Victoria’s Secret prior to this past summer, so I was a bit shocked when I encountered the array of body mists and perfume sprays while browsing for unmentionables. Being the sniffer that I am, I couldn’t let the newer bottles go untested so I picked up what was within reach and ended up leaving with both this one, and an old favorite (Pear Glace). Unlike the regular line of Beauty Rush body mists, which are part alcohol and part oil, this one is a normal alcohol-based body mist that doesn’t require shaking before spraying. Frostea smells undeniably familiar and it took awhile to pin the smell down as Lipton Brisk Iced Tea; however, the dry-down of Frostea (which lasts a surprisingly long time, I might add) is more complex and spicier than I expected it to be – always a good thing. While not the freshest of summer body mists, Frostea is a fun scent to have in one’s collection and one that made me smile as I remembered that cheap iced tea that I’d consumed at the summer lake parties and beach bonfires of my youth.

I hope you’ve all enjoyed the fruity florals and refreshing aquatics of these past summer months and I also hope you’re looking forward to the spicy, woody scents of fall as much as I am!

Grey Vetiver by Tom Ford

Posted in Tom Ford at 11:10 am by Curtis

I’m pretty sure I’ve always hated frosted glass.  I don’t think there’s really anything masculine about it: it’s sort of clouded and translucent, soft in texture; I think clear glass, clean, crisp, strong, cold and hard, with nothing to hide, is much manlier.  I also think clear glass would have been much more fitting for the bottle of Tom Ford’s new Grey Vetiver.  It’s a shame they decided to use frosted glass, but I guess they felt that switching from gold to silver trim and having an entirely different colored juice inside wasn’t enough to differentiate the new launch from the line’s previous two men’s scents.  Oh well. Now that I’ve said something negative about it, let’s continue.

I’m pretty sure I’ve always loved vetiver.  Okay, probably not always, but I’ve loved it ever since I started paying attention to scents and knew that it was okay for men to wear eau de parfum (even though I’ll continue to call everything I wear cologne regardless of concentration, though, to be proper I should say scent or fragrance) and was able to pick out that divine root in the drydown of Eau Sauvage.  It’s not that I love every vetiver scent, but I love vetiver itself.  I don’t much care for Guerlain’s Vetiver or Creed’s, and while I hope to have a bottle of Encre Noire someday, it’s just a bit too harsh for April’s taste, so, other than Eau Sauvage, which hardly counts, the only vetiver-prominent fragrance in my wardrobe is L’Occtitane’s Eau de Vetyver (which, I’ve found, is quite polarizing; some people appreciate the scent while others discount L’Occitane wholesale based on it’s presence in malls across the country and think of it as sort of a Frenchified Bath & Body Works; I’m in the former category).  Eau de Vetyver is very strongly vetiver and cedar, and I like the pairing of the coolness of vetiver with the warmth of the cedar, though at times the cedar really overshadows the vetiver.  Grey Vetiver isn’t nearly as strongly woody and thus is a much colder scent than L’Occtinae’s, though it also keeps quite a distance from the icy depths of Encre Noire.

Grey Vetiver opens with, of course, vetiver and a strong and sour grapefruit note, which, as grapefruit tends to do, sits somewhere between sour-as-in-citrus and sour-as-in-body-odor, with spices and mild woods hovering in the background.  Once the citrus dies down a bit, it gets woodier, spicier, and slightly smoky, and this is probably my favorite phase of the scent (another scent that offers a lot of smoke and woods, and one that I’d like to have someday, but that’s currently a bit too smoky for April, is Gucci Pour Homme).  Grey Vetiver reminds me a bit of Armani’s Bois D’Encens, which I liked but which I found doesn’t last nearly as long as this single phase of Grey Vetiver.  Thereafter, I get a sea-side salty note and something that’s a bit like the smell of wet paint.  While some people might not smell those things, and if they did, they probably wouldn’t like them, I tend to like strange smells, and I also tend to find them in fragrances.  The vetiver is strongest to me in the drydown, where its cool wetness manages to keep the warmness of the spices and woods in check.

Grey Vetiver has a decent amount of sillage and lasts fairly well on my skin, probably 6 or 7 hours, which sort of disappointed me, actually, considering it is an EdP and I generally get more wear out of my EdTs. It’s a multi-purpose scent, good anytime and anywhere, and on anybody. I think this is going to be a success for Mr. Ford, and it’s probably something I’m going to keep around in my wardrobe for years to come.

September 14, 2009

Lo Lo Lo Lola

Posted in Marc Jacobs at 1:02 pm by April

I didn’t allow myself any high hopes in anticipation of Lola by Marc Jacobs. I was so completely disappointed by Daisy, and utterly un-wowed by his signature Marc Jacobs scent, that I was prepared for any positive expectations to be crushed on-spot after smelling Lola. But, here I am, quite surprised by an adequate fragrance.

Don’t get me wrong. I wouldn’t ever wear it, and it’s neither ground-breaking nor amazingly done, but it’s, well…nice. It’s a very loud, very fruity, very purple fragrance that smells of teen angst in all its sexy naivete, and it’s far better than what I expected.

I didn’t think it was very fair of Marc Jacobs to release such a pale and generic scent as Daisy, and in such an irresistible bottle at that, thereby rendering all teenagers with a weakness for flowers and cute, girly things helpless and smelling awful. If you put something that smells cheap (and therefore probably is incredibly cheap to manufacture) into an adorable bottle geared towards teens and young women, the juice doesn’t necessarily have to be great. An amazing, unmatched bottle will sell something mediocre at best and generally awful at worst, as was the case with Daisy.

His former signature scent, Marc Jacobs, wasn’t awful, but it seemed to me a watery, fresh thing that a woman in her mid-to-late twenties might wear, in order to comply with what American society thinks she should smell like: unremarkable, fresh, and flowery. Lola is obviously targeted at the late-teen to early-twenties gal, who is eager to make her mark on the world. She is no longer seduced by merely cute things (ahem, the Daisy bottle), but has learned a bit about the value of what lies within (within perfume and hopefully people, too). That said, Lola feels a bit…forced. It’s not a bad thing, just an obvious one. It reminds me of a girl striving so hard to be an adult, but who is not quite capable of getting there without her spunk and zest for life interfering and dragging her back down to her appropriated youth.

The perfumes of my teenage years were dominated by sweet orientals and fruity splashes of fun and it was Coco Mademoiselle that was my transition scent, i.e. the perfume that so unfalteringly appealed to my senses that it granted me entry into the adult world of fragrance without a second thought. I think there are a handful of perfumers and marketers who are capable of joining forces to create something so specific that it almost announces its purpose upon shooting out of a bottle and into one’s nostrils. Coco Madmoiselle combined the heady orientals of the nineties with the fresh florals of the new century to create something easy to love and noveau enough to seem edgy to the girl in need of a scent that speaks to her sense of feeling constistently misunderstood, capable, passionate, and invincible (the emotions of those priceless days lived between the ages of 18 and 22). I think it’s very possible that Lola just may be the Coco Mademoiselle of the coming decade. I didn’t want it to be (being the non-fan of Mr. Jacobs that I am), but nonetheless, I suppose I’m happy it’s arrived, for the sake of the young girls who can no longer hear what Coco Madmoiselle has to say and are looking for the voice of their generation.

Lola’s bottle is, to me, a tacky mess, though I can see the appeal for some. I enjoy some of Marc Jacobs’ designs, namely a few of his purses, though most of his items I find to be a bit over-the-top. His pieces seem to me to be for the fashion-obsessed; they don’t blend and mix very well with a typical wardrobe, as do the pieces of say, Chanel and Donna Karen, so I’m not surprised that his bottle reminds me of a woman wearing a hat made of fruit. But then, it could be worse, I suppose.

Ultimately, Lola is a scent that will allow the young women with a penchant for the fruity florals of the last few years to try something still fruity and therefore safe, but nonetheless deeper, darker, and richer; a grown up version of fun.

Girls will be boys, and boys will be girls.
It’s a mixed up, muddled up, shook up world,
except for Lola. Lo lo lo Lola. Lo lo lo Lola…”

September 10, 2009

Flop, Drop, and Roll…

Posted in Benefit, Random Thoughts at 1:49 pm by April

With so many new fragrances on the market each year, it’s a daunting task to sort through all of the new releases and once you’re immersed in this sea of beautiful bottles, if you’re lucky enough to encounter a really groundbreaking or special scent, there’s always that chance that it will be dropped from a house’s line within a year or two, or perhaps even before you’ve finished your first bottle.

There are a couple of defenses against the aforementioned tragedy that a perfumista can employ. The first is to steel her heart against the disappointment; consoling herself as a mother would a teenaged daughter after the end of her first relationship, with reminders that there will be other loves along life’s path and that this bump in the road isn’t the end of all things good and pure in the world of perfume. The second, albeit a little less dramatic, is simply to stock up. It’s this method of protection against the loss of a beloved perfume that has inspired me to write today’s post.

It’s happened to all of us, older and young, and no matter what house the perfume hailed from, nor the price tag which accompanied it, the discontinuation of a favorite perfume is, at best, upsetting, and at worst, heartbreaking. It has been said that the use of a long-discontinued, yet recovered scent has aided in the survival of marriages on the rocks and that’s not so difficult for me to believe. I know that my boyfriend and I will always associate the scents we wore when we first began our relationship with that happy, elated feeling that comes along with first shared experiences, first dates, first kisses, and, well, you can see where I’m going with this. Of course, we’ve both acquired several new scents since then and our favorites may have changed, but that first pair will always remain special to us, now and (I’m guessing) for a long time to come.

Fortunately for us, those scents aren’t going anywhere because they’re quite popular best-sellers and the chance of discontinuation is rather small. There are, however, many more scents in our collections which are either niche or unpopular mainstream fragrances, and there is some concern in my mind as to how much time they have left on the market before being given the axe. Beautiful masterpieces are discontinued every year and while it’s true that it is just perfume, to many of us, this is no laughing matter.

It usually takes stumbling upon a new and either limited edition or rare niche fragrance that leaves me concerned about my future collection, and it’s been my recent introduction to an inexpensive Benefit eau de toilette, Something About Sofia, which has gotten me thinking, once again, about stocking up.

There are so many popular perfumes that aren’t going anywhere anytime soon. While there is always the chance of reformulation, it seems to me that the risk of encountering a new reformulation of today’s best-sellers is quite low. With all of the flankers and limited editions assaulting the shelves of Sephora and other department stores, houses rely on their best-selling classics to keep funding these new launches. It doesn’t make sense to mess with a good thing and granted, it does happen, but I don’t really worry about it in today’s market, where people are cutting corners and investing in quality items rather than impulsive purchases.

There are some scents on my to-buy list, which I know will be available for years to come: Kenzo Flower, Coco de Chanel, The One by Dolce & Gabbana, and Tresor to name a few. Some of these I have previously owned and just haven’t repurchased, and the knowledge that they’ll most likely be around for a long time to come, makes me feel secure about purchasing other fragrances instead – the ones I love but find likely to flop.

I actually do find Something About Sofia likely to succeed in today’s market; it is a fruitier, more mature throwback to D&G’s The One, but more accessible and affordable to a younger crowd. It’s housed in packaging that would make even the most practical girl swoon and it’s produced by a company that tends to hang onto its products forever. That said, it’s one of those rare fragrances that I sniffed with low expectations, went back to smell again because I was enamored, and instantly knew I’d want as a part of my collection forever, and now I’m determined to be sure I have enough to last for awhile, lest the company decide that Sophia’s lost that certain something.

Other scents which have held this “wow” factor for me are much pricier and would require an investment of hundreds of dollars to stock up on and in today’s economy, well, that seems a little silly, even to a perfumista like me. But I can’t help but wonder if, at $36 per ounce, Sofia is worth purchasing in large quantities while it’s still easily had.

I also recently tested out Chanel’s Coromandel from the Les Exclusifs line in a local boutique and was told, upon realization that I rather liked the fragrance, that it was being squeezed out of production and the in-store stock was all that remained. A quick email to Chanel confirmed this was false information, and perhaps a sneaky tactic employed by a SA with no morals, however before I knew it wasn’t true, I was contemplating a way to fit $200 into an already tight budget (the bottles are only available in 6.8 ounces, so one bottle is more than enough stock for one lifetime). The threat of discontinuation really motivates me to purchase, even what I can’t afford, and this makes the world of limited editions flankers all the more understandable from a marketing perspective.

I do have a couple of back-up bottles of perfumes I’ve adored for years, that I managed to find on sale. That said, it’s really not much fun to purchase multiple bottles of perfume. The thrill of taking home a new scent isn’t there and that’s really half the fun (at least) of purchasing a bottle of perfume. But with so many fragrances at the mercy of a flop, drop, or roll scenario (a flop which wipes it off Sephora’s shelves in a matter of months; a drop which occurs after a year or so of success, and, of course, just as soon as you’ve declared loyalty and emptied your bottle; or a manufacturer’s decision to roll with it – to keep a fragrance and just let it ride the waves of today’s rising and falling market), I’m often concerned that one of my favorite scents will no longer be on store shelves the following year.

What are your opinions and experiences with discontinuation and/or purchasing multiple bottles of scents? Do you find yourself stocking up or holding out for the next great thing?

August 19, 2009

Thierry Mugler’s Finest Treasure

Posted in Gourmand, Thierry Mugler at 10:56 am by April

Several years ago, but more than a decade after it’s launch, I stumbled across several reviews of Angel. I was, at this point, a lover of perfume, but I was nothing of the perfumista I’ve become. I was drawn to deep, rich scents and had dabbled in some Chanels, fallen in love with Gucci Rush and Amarige, and had flirted with a couple of Calvin Kleins. I knew my tastes fell somewhere between oriental and floral, and I had a deep love of vanilla that not even the most well-blended of fresh scents could shake.

I was astounded at the number of love-it/hate-it reviews of Angel, and I found myself surprisingly eager to try it. It seemed so expensive, and the bottle looked so dated (though I’d fallen for the celestial decor of the nineties so the packaging made me a bit nostalgic for my teenage youth), and I was utterly confused as to how a scent could be described as mouth-watering gingerbread and honey to one person, and as a chemical bug repellant to another. I soon found myself at a perfume counter, holding a star-shaped bottle that felt so heavy and promising in my hand. The first spray hit the tester card and then my nostrils and I was overcome by disappointment. Bug repellant had been an accurate description. The SA was so excited by the perfume that I felt I must be missing something. I had wanted very much to like it, but realized I must belong in the hate-it category.

“It’s…very different,” I tried to hide my disappointment for fear of bursting her excitement bubble. I then asked to try a couple of other scents, but before moving on, she asked if she could spray Angel on my skin. I was horrified at the thought, but rude I am not, so I obliged, all the while dreading the coming hours when I’d be forced to detour my evening’s plans with a trip home for a shower, or to force my friends to suffer through the aroma of this strange beast. I don’t remember the other scents I’d sampled that day; I’m sure I feigned interest until I could make my way to a rack full of more promising purchases in the way of clothing.

But then…oh my. What was I smelling? The SA must have sprayed something wonderful which had accidently gotten on my hand instead of the card. But no, she hadn’t; this was more than an accidental overspray – this was intense. I disbelievingly sniffed at my wrist where she’d sprayed a generous dose of Angel and to my surprise, found it hard to remove my wrist from the vicinity of my nostrils.

The first moment that one smells Angel after the top-notes have dissipated, if this person is to be a fan of the scent, is one of the biggest revelations a perfumista can have. At once, there is confusion, followed by intrigue, an impenetrable feeling of contentment, and then finally, a moment of wonder. Smelling Angel after several minutes is like watching a movie in which an utterly confounding mystery is finally unraveled before one’s eyes.

In the most recent advertisement for Angel, Naomi Watts (a favorite actress of mine) is shown sniffing a feathery…hmm…well, what appears to be a clump of pale blue feathers, and inhaling an aroma. A serene, yet questioning expression appears upon her face, before we see her unlock a beautiful door to a tower housing hundreds of bottles of Angel, where her expression then becomes one of sublime contentment. This process is an accurate one. Smelling Angel, for me, offers a bit of mystery, a bit of serenity, and a bit of adventure.

This is a perfume for a woman who loves to indulge herself in the occasional freedom that is one’s own imagination. Angel whispers of the surprises in life yet to come; of the childhood dreams, unfulfilled, that haven’t left our hearts and tug at our emotions from time to time. Angel created the gourmand fragrance genre in and of itself, while also moving the art of perfumery forward.  When the world is an uncertain place, the imagination becomes a priceless tool for entertainment, and also one of hope and of inspiration, and I believe Angel to be a  remarkable beacon of hope to so many women who are currently seeking a bit of impracticality, and the stability that comes along with the feeling that indulging in the mysterious and impractical is acceptable from time to time.

I find it very difficult to describe the actual scent of Angel; multiple notes offer far too many interpretations and possible associations, so the most I can offer is my impression, which is one of awe and immediate devotion. Angel is haunting – even upon sniffing it at full strength on my wrist, I can’t help but think of the effect it may make as a lingering aroma with a lasting impression. On a whim, I grabbed Angel as my scent of choice in mid-August, several summers ago, to wear on my first date with my current boyfriend, and I often wonder if he fell in love with me or my perfume, as he raved about how he couldn’t get it out of his mind and had to content himself with the mens’ version while I was away.

To me, Angel is a dry scent – though the honey lends an edible effect, and its presence is one of both timidity, and brazen boldness; though unapologetic in all its strength and smoky sweetness, it is an innocent scent – one that seems naive and unaware of its perfection and all the more mysterious in its willingness to change from the chemical monster it is born as upon leaving the bottle, into the heavenly aroma it innately transforms into, upon sinking into the skin and taking refuge in the wearer’s willingness to listen to its unexpected song. It is cocoa and gingerbread, honey and woods; it’s a bit of wearable divinity and a glimpse into what could only be the heaven for those who love sweet and decadent things. It has quite a good run before fading into a calm, dry patchouli that hints of its sweet, former self.